Military Wiki
Bill Stone
Born (1900-09-23)23 September 1900
Died 10 January 2009(2009-01-10) (aged 108)
Place of birth Ledstone, Devon, England
Place of death Sindlesham, England
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png Royal Navy
Years of service 23 September 1918 – 18 September 1945
Rank Stoker Chief Petty Officer
Unit Included:
HMS Tiger
HMS Hood
HMS Salamander
HMS Newfoundland
See full list below for all ships

First World War
Second World War

Awards Mentioned in Despatches
See full list below for details of campaign and commemorative medals awarded
Other work Barber

William Frederick "Bill" Stone (23 September 1900 – 10 January 2009) was one of the last five First World War veterans who served in the United Kingdom's armed forces and one of the last two seamen worldwide, along with Claude Choules. They were also the last two to also serve in the Second World War, although Stone saw action only in the Second World War as he was still in training when the First World War ended.

Stone was born in Ledstone, Kingsbridge, Devon and enlisted in the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday. He served onboard HMS Tiger shortly after the end of the First World War, before serving on a number of ships including HMS Hood. At the beginning of the Second World War Stone was serving on the minesweeper HMS Salamander before moving onto the light cruiser HMS Newfoundland in 1941. After the war, he ran his own barber's shop. In his later years Stone was present at many memorial services including the 90th anniversary commemorations at the Cenotaph in London. He died on 10 January 2009.

Early life

Stone was born in Ledstone, Devon, as the tenth of fourteen children, and enlisted into the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday.[1][2] Two of his older brothers had already joined the navy, and a third was in the army. He had first tried to join up at the age of fifteen, walking three miles from where he was working on a farm, to Kingsbridge, to collect the attestation papers, but his father refused to countersign them.[2]

Naval service

The first record of his naval service describes him as being 5'5.5" (1.66 m) tall, with a 32.5" (83 cm) chest, brown hair and blue eyes, and his prior occupation as stationary engine driver.[3] He trained as a Stoker in Plymouth, and could remember the dancing in the streets on Armistice Day.[2] His first position was as a Stoker aboard the battlecruiser HMS Tiger, and by summer 1919 was at the main wartime Royal Navy base at Scapa Flow, here he was a witness to the scuttling of the German fleet.[2]

He remained in the navy after the war, serving on HMS Hood during the 1920s, including a round-the-world "Empire Cruise" showing the flag in British colonies from 1922–24.[4] He married Lily in 1938, the marriage lasting until her death in 1995; they had one daughter, Anne. By the outbreak of the Second World War he was Chief Stoker of the Halcyon class minesweeper HMS Salamander. On her he participated in the evacuation of Dunkirk, with Salamander making five shuttle trips and picking up over a 1,000 men from the beaches.[2] He later described his experience there for the Oxford Mail:

Dunkirk was the worst experience of my life ... I saw hundreds of people killed in front of me. Some had no clothes on and were shot and bombed as they swam out to boats. There were oil tanks burning, ships sinking and hundreds of soldiers lined up on the beaches.[2]

He served on the Arctic convoys and in the Mediterranean, and was also torpedoed twice. The second time was while serving aboard the Crown Colony class light cruiser HMS Newfoundland during the Allied invasion of Sicily, when it was hit by U-407.[2][5] Following temporary repairs in Malta, the ship limped across the Atlantic steering using only its two propellers, for full repair at the Boston Navy Yard.[5] He was Mentioned in Despatches on 21 December 1943 for his service on this occasion.[4][6] He served with the occupation forces in north Germany, and was a Stoker Chief Petty Officer when he left the navy in 1945.[2] After the war, he ran his own barber's shop, where he also sold cigarettes and smoking tobacco, he retired in 1968.[4]

Later life

Some time after his retirement he moved to Watlington in Oxfordshire.[2] He attended the 60th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuations in 2000, outliving the Dunkirk Veterans' Association which disbanded after this commemoration.[2] In 2005, he became Fox FM's Local Hero and Central Television's Personality of the Year. He broke his hip in 2006, at age 106, which forced him to leave Watlington, Oxfordshire.[7] He moved into a retirement facility in Sindlesham, a suburb of Winnersh, which lies between Reading and Wokingham, in 2007.[8]

On 11 November 2008, marking the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, together with fellow veterans Henry Allingham and Harry Patch, Stone laid a commemorative wreath for the Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in London.[9]

Stone died on 10 January 2009.[1][10] His daughter described him as a "very determined character [...] a man of great faith and his recipe for long life was: 'Clean living, contented mind and trust in God.' His motto: 'Keep going.'"[4] His funeral was held on 29 January 2009 at St Leonard's Church, Watlington.[11] In September 2009, memoirs detailing Stone's experience of the two world wars were published.[12]


Stone received many medals in his 27 year career in the Navy. These included campaign medals and commemorative medals issued on anniversaries and commemorations.[1]

British Empire Campaign Medals
British Commonwealth Campaign Medals
Foreign Medals
Commemorative Medals
  • Dunkirk Medal for Veterans of the Dunkirk Evacuation 1940

The Dunkirk and 50th Anniversary Russian commemorative medals are not officially recognised by The Queen[13] and should not be worn on formal occasions. However it is usual to wear official medals on the left chest lapel and have unofficial medals form a second row underneath. Bill Stone wore his medals in this manner.[14]


Listed here are the seagoing vessels that Stone served on. At various times he was posted to shore establishments for training or other duties. Smaller vessels were also officially assigned to a depot ship.

  • HMS Tiger Battle cruiser – 1919-1922[15]
  • HMS Hood Battle cruiser – 1922-1924[15][16]
  • HMS Chrysanthemum Sloop – 1925-1927[16]
  • HMS P40 Submarine Chaser – 1928-29[16]
  • HMS Eagle Aircraft carrier – 1929-1931
  • HMS Harebell Sloop – 1931-1933
  • HMS Thanet Destroyer – 1933-1934
  • HMS Tenedos Destroyer – 1933-1934
  • HMS Carlisle Light cruiser – 1934-1937
  • HMS Salamander Mine sweeper – 1937-1941
  • HMS Newfoundland Light cruiser – 1941-1944

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Naval and Other Memories of William Frederick Stone". H.M.S. Hood Association website. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "Obituary—Bill Stone—One of the last veterans of both world wars". The Guardian. London. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  3. "Registers of Seamen's Services—Image details—Stone, William Frederick: SS9765" (fee required to view pdf of full original register entry). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Jones, Sam (13 January 2009). "One of UK's three remaining first world war veterans dies at 108". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Chief Petty Officer Bill Stone—One of the last survivors of both world wars who served with the Royal Navy for 30 years, witnessing events from the scuttling of the German Fleet to Dunkirk". The Daily Telegraph. London. 13 January 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  6. "No. 36295". 17 December 1943. 
  7. "William (107) takes a tumble". Henley Standard. 15 September 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  8. "Bill, 108, visits wartime display". Henley Standard. Retrieved 12 January 2009. [dead link]
  9. Kennedy, Maev (12 November 2008). "Last survivors of first world war salute the fallen". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 November 2008. 
  10. "British WWI veteran dies aged 108". BBC. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  11. "War veteran's funeral held". ITV News. 29 January 2009. 
  12. "Memoirs chart the incredible life of hero Bill". Western Morning News. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-17. 
  13. "Medals - The Russian Convoy Medal". Ministry of Defence Veterans Association. Retrieved 14 January 2009. 
  14. Bill Stone obituary, illustrated with him wearing his medals (Mirror website)
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Registers of Seamen's Services—Image details—Stone, William Frederick: SS119909" (fee required to view pdf of full original register entry). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "Registers of Seamen's Services—Image details—Stone, William Frederick: K62463" (fee required to view pdf of full original register entry). DocumentsOnline. The National Archives. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 

External links

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