b. 04/02/1889 Ripley, Derbyshire. d. 29/08/1952 Derby.
Charles Edwin Stone (1889-1952) was born at Street Lane, Ripley, near Belper, Derbyshire on 4th February 1889. His parents were George Edward Stone and Mary Ellen and he was the tenth of thirteen children. By the time he was six, the family had moved to a farm cottage on Sandbed Lane, Openwoodgate, Belper and he attended the local school, Pottery School. In 1906 Stone’s mother died, which meant the younger children were brought up by their older brothers and sisters. Later, following his father’s trade, he became a miner, first at New Denby Hall Pit and then at Salterwood near Ripley.
After leaving home, he shared a house with his brother Joseph who lived in Nottingham Road, Belper. On 12th September 1914, he enlisted as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery at Sutton-in-Ashfield. He was attached to C Battery, 83rd Brigade which was part of the 18th (Eastern) Division. He was stationed at Colchester for artillery training, before leaving for France in July 1915. He saw action in many of the major campaigns including the Somme. He served for a time as an officer’s servant. His brother Ernest was killed in action in 1917. It was at the end of October in the Passchendaele battle that he was awarded the Military Medal for helping man the guns when his usual job was in the wagon lines. The battery suffered several hits and Stone was busy tending to the wounded.
On 21st March 1918 at Caponne Farm, France, after working at his gun for six hours under heavy gas and shell fire, Gunner Stone was sent back to the rear with an order. He delivered it and then, under a very heavy barrage, returned with a rifle to assist in holding up the enemy on a sunken road. First lying in the open under very heavy machine-gun fire and then on the right flank of the two rear guns he held the enemy at bay. Later he was one of the party which captured a machine-gun and four prisoners.
Following the gazetting of his VC, he was invested at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 28th June 1918. He then travelled to Belper, where he was presented with a gold watch and chain and £100 in War Bonds by the people of the town. He was also congratulated by the people of Ripley with a civic reception and another £100 in War Bonds. He subsequently returned to France and was promoted to Lance Bombardier. He was demobbed in January 1919 and went back to the mines at Salterwood Colliery, where he worked for a few more years and took a keen interest in the local Athletic Club at Heage, a nearby village. He later moved to Ashbourne and worked at Heywood Farm. It was during this time he saved the life of a fellow worker, Miss Elizabeth Lees, from severe burns when her clothes caught fire and smothered the flames with his jacket. For about 12 years after the war he lodged with the parents of an ex-soldier. He never married.
From 1924, he worked for Rolls Royce for 20 years in Derby and from the early 1930s he lived at 32 Becket Well Lane, Derby. At Rolls Royce he worked in one of the foundries which was nicknamed “Dante’s Inferno”. In 1929 he visited Woolwich where the Royal Artillery made a fuss of him and he was invited to take the salute. During 1940, he was introduced to King George VI when he visited Rolls Royce. In June 1949 he met the Duke of Edinburgh on his visit to the factory.
Stone died in the City Hospital in Derby of cardiac failure, diabetes and arteriosclerosis on 29th August 1952. He was buried in his mother’s grave in Belper Cemetery with full military honours. His medals were bequeathed to the Royal Artillery Institute and are currently in storage following the closure of the Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: IN STORAGE FOLLOWING CLOSURE OF ROYAL ARTILLERY MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: BELPER CEMETERY, BELPER, DERBYSHIRE.
Charles Stone's medals inclufing VC and MM on display at the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich, London (January 2015)
RA Chapel, Woolwich
Belper, Derbyshire (Brian Drummond)