Sergeant Arnold Loosemore: Tragic tale of Sheffield war hero as VC medal expected to fetch £220k at auction
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Sergeant Arnold Loosemore, from Sharrow, Sheffield, single-handedly shot down at least 20 enemy soldiers before leading a wounded comrade to safety during the First World War. His astounding act of bravery amid the Third Battle of Ypres, near Langemarck, Belgium, on August 11, 1917, earned him the highest military honour.
More than a century later, as that VC medal is about to go under the hammer, with a guide price of £180,000-£220,000, the remarkable story of Sergeant Loosemore’s life, his tragic death and the appalling treatment of his wife can be revealed.
Arnold Loosemore was born in Sharrow on June 7, 1896, to George Loosemore, a gardener at Sheffield General Cemetery, and his wife Selina.
The sixth of seven brothers, all of whom would go on to serve in the First World War, he was educated at Clifford School before becoming a farmworker in Fulwood.
Sheffield war hero initially rejected by Army due to ‘frail physique’
When war was declared in 1914, he immediately volunteered but was turned down due to his ‘frail physique’. Undeterred, he took a job with a coal merchant to build up his strength, and successfully enrolled with the York and Lancaster Regiment on January 2, 1915.
He transferred to the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) and served with the 8th Battalion in Gallipoli, Turkey, in September 1915. In July 1916, he was posted to France, where he served as a Lewis machine-gunner.
It was during his time on the Western Front that he earned his Victoria Cross, when, after two members of his section were killed beside him, he fought on with every means at his disposal - machine-gun, bomb, rifle and revolver. He successfully repelled a fierce counter attack, killing about 20 enemy soldiers, including a number of snipers, before returning to his original post with a wounded comrade while under heavy fire.
Remarkably, just the day before, he had reputedly shot down a German fighter engaged in a dog-fight with a British aircraft, saving the life of the British pilot.
He was later decorated with the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his gallantry with the 1st/4th Battalion at Zillebeke during a raid on June 20, 1918, in which 11 prisoners and a machine gun were captured.
Sergeant Loosemore was severely wounded by machine gun fire at Villers-en-Cauchies on October 11, 1918, and his left leg was amputated. He never fully recovered from his war wounds, and he died of tuberculosis in 1924.
Sergeant Loosemore was presented with his VC medal by the King at Buckingham Palace on January 2, 1918, after returning to the UK on leave. The following day, he attended a Civic Reception in Sheffield, where more than 2,000 people gathered to cheer him from the steps of the town hall.
Sheffield war hero’s widow sent bill for husband’s funeral procession
He was buried with full military honours, with crowds lining the procession route from Hillsborough to Ecclesall, and the funeral service conducted by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield.
But his treatment was in contrast to that of his wife, who was denied a War Widows pension on the grounds that he was no longer a serving soldier at the time of their marriage. As her husband’s VC annuity ceased upon his death, she and their son were left penniless.
To compound matters, she was then sent the bill for her husband’s funeral procession by the council. Sixty years later the council belatedly attempted to right this wrong, by naming a new residential road ‘Loosemore Drive’ in his honour.
Sergeant Loosemore’s Victoria Cross is being auctioned by Noonans in a sale of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria on Wednesday, July 26.