Sergeant Arnold Loosemore (1896 - 1924)

Arnold was one of only three people who were born in Sheffield to have been awarded the Victoria Cross. But even more remarkably he was one of only two holders of the award to be born here and die here (the other was James Firth). In many ways Arnold's award is even more remarkable given his background and the circumstances under which he won it. But as ever in this country, the British government instead of honouring a truly remarkable man, found it necessary to force his young family into severe financial distress and hardship. 

 

Name Arnold  LOOSEMORE
Rank Sergeant
Force 8th Battalion The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment
VC  11 August 1917 Langemarck, Belgium
London Gazette 14 September 1917
Born 7 June 1896 Sheffield
Died 10 April 1924 Stannington Sheffield
Grave Ecclesall Cemetery, Sheffield
Location of  VC Not publicly held
Notes Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

ARNOLD as the table states was born on 7th June 1896 and was the sixth son of GEORGE HARRY and SELINA LOOSEMORE (nee Hoyland). His father George was born in Brinsworth, Rotherham but he must have moved to the Ecclesall area of Sheffield at some time for the 1901 Census has the family living in Dyson Lane. George's occupation is given as domestic gardener. His wife Selina was the daughter of Joshua (1826 - 1895) and Mary (1830 - ) Hoyland. She had two younger brothers and two younger sisters according  to the  1881 Census. There is no entry for Selina (or George for that matter) in the Census but there is an entry for Selina's family which shows them living on Greystones Road (RG11 Piece 4639 Folio 51 Page 9) in the Ecclesall Bierlow district of Sheffield.

 Her father was a stone quarryman whilst her mother was employed as a charwoman.

 

GEORGE and SELINA were married in Sheffield a year later on  17th  December 1882. They had the following children

  1. Joseph Joshua Loosemore - 14th December 1883 - 28th February 1934 (St Omer, France)
  2. George Arthur Hoyland Loosemore - 1885 - 1951 (Sheffield)
  3. John William Loosemore - 1887 - 1964 (Sheffield)
  4. Harry Loosemore - 1890 - 
  5. Mary Loosemore 1892 - 1893
  6. Frank Loosemore - 1894 - 1956
  7. Arnold Loosemore - 1896 - 1924
  8. Ernest Loosemore - 10th September 1898 - 1955

Arnold attended Clifford Church of England School on Psalter Lane in Sheffield and on leaving school worked on a farm in the Fulwood district of Sheffield.  The 1911 Census has the following information

Name Arnold Loosemore
Relationship to Head of Household Servant
Gender Male
Age 14 Estimated Year of Birth 1897
Occupation Cowboy On Farm
Employed Yes Working at Home No
Place of Birth Sheffield
Enumerator Information Address Lowfolds Farm Sheffield Parish Ecclesall Town Sheffield
Type of Building Farm Number of Rooms 6 Rooms Inhabited Yes
Reference RG14PN27759 RG78PN1588 RD509 SD2 ED39 SN14 Administrative County Yorkshire (West Riding)
Registration District Ecclesall Bierlow Registration Sub District Ecclesall West Central Enumeration District 39

Arnold left there and was working for a local coal merchants as a Carter when he enlisted in January 1915. His age on his enlistment form is given as 19 years and seven months and his address as 1 Lescar Lane, Off Sharrow Vale Road, Sheffield 

He was posted to the Yorkshire and Lancaster Regiment and after initial training he was sent to Suvla Bay and the Dardanelles for the ill fated operation that is now known as Gallipoli. Arnold was then drafted to the 8th Battalion of The Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment and trained as a machine-gunner, operating the then-new Lewis gun. It is rumoured that Arnold shot down a German aircraft while it was chasing a British plane over his unit's camp. It was whilst serving with the 8th Battalion of the Regiment that Arnold was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The citation is given in The London Gazette Issue 30284 published on the 14 September 1917 (page 3 of 4) 

The action took place on 11th August 1917 to the south of Langemarck, in Belgium, during an attack on a strongly held German position. His platoon was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. Crawling through a partially cut wire, Arnold dragged his Lewis gun behind him. He then, single-handed, dealt with a strong detachment of German soldiers, killing approximately 20 in total. His Lewis gun was destroyed almost immediately, and he was rushed by three of the enemy but he managed to shoot them with his revolver. Later, after shooting several enemy snipers, he returned to his original post carrying a wounded soldier under heavy fire.

The Manchester Guardian dated 15th September 1917 carried a brief report of Arnold's award

"Private Arnold Loosemore, VC., West riding Regiment is a Sheffield man who celebrated his majority in June when he was home on short leave. He had in his letters home given no hint of the honour he had other than that in a sentence: "You will be having a great surprise one of these days." Loosemore is one of seven sons serving in the forces. His father is employed as a gardener at the Sheffield General Cemetery. Before the war young Loosemore worked at a farm at Fulwood. He joined up early in the war, and saw service in the Dardanelles"

Illustration from The War Illustrated A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations Volume 7 Edited by J. A. Hammerton Published by the Amalgamated Press Ltd
The Fleetway House London E.C.

From Victoria Cross Awards 1856 - 1920

Additional information:. He was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V. A record of the occasion is noted in The Times, Thursday, Jan 03, 1918; pg. 9; Issue 41677; col A Court Circular. Sergeant Loosemore, was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his actions at Zillebreke on June 19th 1918. He must have been promoted since the award of the VC as the citation refers to him as Private Loosemore.

The Sheffield Daily Independent dated 4th January 1918 has a photograph of Arnold back in Sheffield surrounded by civic dignitaries

On 18th October 1918 he was badly wounded in both legs by machine gun fire in an attack on a ridge near Villers-en-Cauchies. Such were the extent of the injuries he was eventually to have his left leg amputated. 

The irony is that this letter appeared in the Sheffield Telegraph and Star a day later 19th October 1918. It was written by Sheffield's Lord Mayor Alfred Cattell on the very day that Arnold was badly wounded. As we shall see the funds would be needed but probably not in the way the Lord Mayor envisaged

After demobilisation Arnold returned to Sheffield and married Amy Morton on 24th August 1920 at St Andrews Church. Sharrow Sheffield His occupation is given as "poultry farmer". They were to have a son the following year who was named after his father.

Douglas Lamb in his book "Lest We Forget" details what happened to the family after the war. Disabled through the loss of a leg, the Sheffield Rotary Club provided Arnold and his family with a bungalow and pony and trap. Sadly the long term effect of the wounds led to his early death at the age of 27 on 10th April 1924. Max Arthur in his recently published book on VC holders gives Arnold's home as being in Stannington, and ascribes his death as being due to contracting tuberculosis. Arnold was buried five days later on 15th April 1924 in the new churchyard of All Saints Churchyard in Ecclesall. It appears that the grave was purchased by a relative who had died a few days earlier

In November 2009 I obtained the following obituary from the local Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 11th April 1924

A report of his death was also placed in The Times, Saturday, Apr 12, 1924; pg. 14; Issue 43625; col E 

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph gave a full report in it's edition dated 16th April 1924 

His bereaved wife Amy and three year old son were left without financial resources when the British government refused to pay her a War Widows pension on the grounds that she was aware of his injuries when she married him and as he was no longer a serving soldier at the time of marriage in 1920, she was not entitled to any monies. The government\army did not even ensure that Arnold had a grave to himself for the one in the churchyard in Ecclesall, is a shared one. Lloyd George's cry of "a country fit for heroes" has never sounded so abject and hollow.

In July 2008, a person left a comment on a local message board. Referring to this article it noted that

"The final part of the story is missing. He (Arnold Loosemore) was given a fitting funeral organised by the City Council, procession from Hillsborough to Ecclesall with crowds lining the streets, service by the Bishop etc. Then his penniless widow was sent a bill for the whole thing by the Council!"

I have not verified this statement, but it is repeated in an article about Arnold that appeared in the Church magazine "Spur" dated November 2007. Arnold's son many years later confirmed that this was the case. It must rank amongst one of the most shameful episodes in Sheffield's long and eventful history. 

In early October 2010, a descendent contacted me with the following information

"I can verify the fact that a bill for the lavish funeral was received by Amy Loosemore, his wife. Her sister was my grandmother Mary Worth (nee Morton). Aunty Amy stayed with us, holidaying in Folkestone with her sister and brother in law, as did Arnold's son and wife and three children, my second cousins or is it first cousins once removed?! I was too young to appreciate the significance of the First World War and a VC, but my Auntie Joan, my father's sister, told me the same story some years ago having heard it from Amy and her own mother Mary".  

I have not yet seen the grave in person but the photograph on the Victoria Cross website reveals a rather neglected and forlorn resting place. He surely deserves better recognition than this.

As a postscript, a researcher on the Great War Forum posted this additional information in February 2008
"His son Arnold jnr, visited Ypre in 1977 and presented a Tankard to the town on behalf of the Lord Mayor of Sheffield.
He then visited the spot where his father won the VC. His son sold the VC and Arnolds other medals at Sotherby's in 1969 for the sum of £1,080.
His son thought that his father was " just another hero down the drain". Arnold snr is also remembered at the ex services club (companions) here in Sheffield with a large framed photograph and a copy of his citation hanging from the wall. There was/is ? a memorial tablet that dedicated in St Andrews church, this was upon the demolition of the church taken and hung in the school he and his brothers attended, Clifford Road School".

In December 2012 I was sent the following extract from a Ecclesall All Saints Church magazine from November 2007. Ann's article confirms the shabby and desultory way the family were treated by this country. Some people ought to have died with shame!

 


 

Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori by Wilfred Owen M.C.(1893-1918)

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie:
"Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori."

Translation: "It is sweet and meet (fitting) to die for one's country."

In the local Sheffield Star dated Friday 9th August 2013 there was a very interesting article that related directly to Arnold

The Sheffield Telegraph dated 29th December 2014 had this article on Arnold, or to be more exact, his legacy

"A new memorial plaque commemorating a Sheffield war hero has been installed on a street named after him. Loosemore Drive in Gleadless Common was named after Sergeant Arnold Loosemore in the early 1980s.

A plaque was installed beneath the road sign reminding residents of Sgt Loosemore’s bravery during World War One.

Sgt Loosemore won the Victoria Cross for bravery after he single-handedly killed more than 20 German soldiers to save his platoon. But over the years the plaque was repeatedly vandalised and eventually stolen. 

Now two Sheffield friends, Graham White and David Titterton Garnham, from Millhouses, have had a new plaque made by Brass Founders of Sheffield to ensure Sgt Loosemore’s memory lives on.

The plaque was officially unveiled in a special ceremony by the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Coun Peter Rippon and David Moody, the Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire.

Sgt Loosemore was a 21-year-old private in August 1917 when his platoon was held up by heavy machine gun fire during an attack on a German position near Ypres, Belgium.

Immediately afterwards his Lewis gun was blown up and three enemy rushed for him - but he shot them all with his revolver.

Later, he shot several enemy snipers, exposing himself to heavy fire, and brought back a wounded comrade.

In 1918, he was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Zillebeke, Belgium.

Earlier this year, Dr White and Mr Titterton Garnham, along with friend Alan Watson, also of Millhouses, had three plaques made to help guide visitors to Sgt Loosemore’s grave in All Saints Parish Church, Ecclesall.

The plaques, which were donated by Brass Founders of Sheffield, point visitors from the church door to the grave.

The trio found it difficult to locate Sgt Loosemore’s grave after discovering he was buried close to where they lived and so had the plaques made. They hope their installation will enable more people, especially those from younger generations, to learn about him.

Dr White said: We hope that all people, especially young people, will get to know the sacrifices made by this amazing man.”

Sources

Victoria Cross Research

Victoria Cross Reference

Victoria Cross

Lest We Forget - Douglas Lamb

The Manchester Guardian dated 15th September 1917

Sheffield Telegraph and Star 19th October 1918

Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 11th April 1924 - 16th April 1924

The Sheffield Daily Independent dated 4th January 1918

The Times, Saturday, Apr 12, 1924

Sheffield History Forum

Great War Forum

The War Illustrated A Pictorial Record of the Conflict of the Nations Volume 7 Edited by J. A. Hammerton Published by the Amalgamated Press Ltd
The Fleetway House London E.C.

Sheffield Star dated Friday 9th August 2013

NOTE

Arnold's Victoria Cross was sold at Sotherby's on May 1st 1969 for £1080. The buyer is not known

This page was last updated on 22/01/17 16:20

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