CWG: Stoker 1st Class John Loose

Stoker 1st Class John Loose

John Robert Loose was born on 3rd March 1891 in the village of Brancaster on the North Norfolk coast. One of seven children his parents were John and Agnes Loose.

John Loose Sr was a fisherman, as were most of the family’s neighbours and the sea was definitely in his oldest son’s blood. Within days of his eighteenth birthday, he had enlisted in the Royal Navy for a 12 year term. His service records show that he was 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion.

Stoker 2nd Class Loose’s first assignment was on board HMS Acheron and, over the next year he learnt his trade on board her, HMS Vindictive and HMS Hawke. In June 1910, he was serving on HMS Inflexible, and received a promotion to Stoker 1st Class.

In the lead up to the outbreak of the First World War, John served on five further vessels. In between ocean assignments he was based on board HMS Pembroke, the shore-based establishment based at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent.

While he seemed diligent and hard working, Stoker Loose was not without his flaws, and had a couple of run-ins with authority. In June 1912 he was detained for 90 days for absence, drunkenness and for striking a Leading Seaman. Eighteen months later he was imprisoned for a further 28 days for being absent beyond his allotted leave.

When hostilities commenced, Stoker Loose was serving on board HMS Bacchante, an armoured cruiser that was part of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean fleet. He spent a total of eighteen months on board, returning to Chatham in February 1916.

A further lengthy posting followed, as he was assigned to HMS Calliope, a light cruiser that served in the North Sea, and which was involved in the Battle of Jutland later that spring. Again, Stoker Loose’s record was not without blemish: he spend a week in the brig, although there is no confirmation of his misdemeanour this time around.

By August 1917, John was back on dry land in Kent. HMS Pembroke was a busy place that summer, and, with its barracks having reached capacity, Chatham Drill Hall was used as temporary accommodation. This is where John found himself billeted.

The German Air Force, by this point was trying to minimise the losses it was suffering during raids it carried out in daytime. Instead, it trialled night flights and, on 3rd September 1917, Chatham found itself in their flight path. The Drill Hall Stoker Loose was sleeping in received a direct hit, and he was killed. He was just 26 years old.

The 98 victims of the Chatham Air Raid were laid to rest in Woodlands Cemetery, Gillingham, walking distance from the Drill Hall where John Robert Loose had been living.

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