Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Stone,

Royal Navy

By MARTIN PHILLIPS  Senior Feature Writer (Sun Newspaper) ... Published: 30 Jan 2009

Chief Petty Officer William “Bill” Stone, who died on January 10 aged 108, was the last UK-based veteran to have served in the Royal Navy during both world wars ... more info thanks to Wikipedia

Brave ... a young William Stone

He witnessed the scuttling of the German fleet in 1918, helped at the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, and lived to lay a wreath on the 90th anniversary of the Armistice last November 2008.


Bill Stone’s coffin, draped in a Union flag, and topped by his trademark blue Navy beret, was carried to the small village church in Watlington, Oxfordshire on the shoulders of six Royal Navy stokers, and followed by another sailor carrying the veteran’s many medals.  It left to the sound of the church bell tolling 108 times — once for every year of an amazing life — and a cheerful playing of the Gracie Fields wartime ditty "Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye", plus a rendition of "All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor". 

Bill’s great grandchildren, Sophie Davidson and Annabel Powell, both two, laid flowers on his coffin and children from the local school added snowdrops.  Then a Royal Marine bugler played a haunting Last Post and Reveille in Bill’s honour.

Tribute ... decorated war hero William Stone

Tributes at the service were led by Bill’s son-in-law Michael Davidson, who said: “It was the Royal Navy which did so much to shape his character that we all know. How exciting must it have been for a young man of 23 to find himself on the deck of the iconic ship HMS Hood, leading a squadron of ships on a near worldwide cruise.” Born the tenth of 14 children to a South Devon farmer in 1900, Bill joined the Royal Navy in 1918 as an ordinary seaman but was persuaded to become a stoker — who worked in the ship’s engine room — by his three brothers who were stokers too. Bill served as a trainee for only a few months before the end of the First World War, but witnessed the scuttling of the defeated German fleet at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys where he was stationed.  In a 27-year naval career he dodged death in a series of bloody conflicts, surviving bombs, torpedoes, mines and gunfire without so much as a scratch. He served as a stoker on battlecruiser HMS Tiger, on HMS Hood before it was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck, and he helped to save 1,000 soldiers from Dunkirk aboard "The minesweeper Salamander" which made five rescue trips despite being hit several times.  Bill was awarded the British War Medal, the Atlantic Star, the Africa Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal — decorated with an oak leaf because he was Mentioned in Dispatches during the Sicily landings in 1943.  Son-in-law Michael told how Bill had become HMS Hood’s barber — and had several close shaves with authority because of his cheekiness.


Michael said: “Bill loved the ladies and on meeting them invariably asked for a kiss.” He added that when the Queen met him once in later life and asked how he was feeling, he quipped: “With both hands!” Bill wed sweetheart Lily in 1938 and after the war opened his own barber shop. He was widowed in 1995 and moved to Oxfordshire to be close to his daughter.

Michael said: “If I had to find one word to sum up William, it was cheerfulness.”  After the service, Bill’s daughter Anne said: “He did so many amazing things in his life.  “He loved the Navy and treated his own home like a ship. “He could never get used to sleeping in a bed, he was so used to sleeping in a hammock.”  Bill was one of only two surviving veterans to have served in both world wars. The other, sailor Claude Choules, 107, lives in Australia. The other surviving Great War veterans are RAF hero Henry Allingham, 112, and ex-infantryman Harry Patch, 110.

Bill Stone, veteran of both World Wars Freemason ... November 1932 / January 2009 RMBI Lord Harris Court resident and World War I veteran William Stone passed away peacefully in January. At 108, he was the RMBI's oldest resident.

He was initiated in November 1932 in United Service Lodge No. 3473 at Portland, Dorset. After World War Two he joined Courtland Lodge No. 6706 at Paignton, Devon.

In later years, and following retirement, he and his wife moved to Oxfordshire, where he joined Icknield Way Lodge No. 8292 and Oxfordshire Lodge of Service and Honour No. 9162.

[ Bill Stone, veteran of both World Wars ]