CWG: Stoker 1st Class John McGregor

Stoker 1st Class John McGregor

John McGregor was born Aberdeen in 1898, the son of James McGregor. Little specific information is available about John’s early life, but it is clear that James remarried at some point, Jane McGregor becoming John’s stepmother. The family moved south to Airdrie, living on one of the main thoroughfares, South Bridge Street.

At some point after the outbreak of war, John joined up, taking on the role of Stoker 2nd Class in the Royal Navy. During his time in the service, he was promoted to Stoker 1st Class. By 1917, he was assigned to the HMS Prince George, a battleship that patrolled the English Channel, and acted as support for the Dardanelles campaign in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In the summer of 1917, Stoker McGregor was transferred to HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. That point in the war was particularly busy for the base, and temporary accommodation was set up in the Drill Hall; this is where John found himself billeted.

By this point in the war, the German Air Force had suffered huge losses during the daylight bombing raids it had been undertaking. It was imperative for them to minimise these losses, and so a new tactic – night time raids – was employed.

The first trial of this approach was on the night of 3rd September 1917, and Chatham suddenly found itself in the firing line, startlingly unready and fundamentally unprotected. One of the German bombers landed a direct hit on the Drill Hall, and Stoker McGregor was amongst those to be instantly killed. He was just 19 years old.

Ninety-eight servicemen perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night. They were buried in a mass funeral at the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. This, too, is where John McGregor was laid to rest.

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