b. 07/12/1891 Blackheath, London. d. 30/11/1917 Cambrai, France.
Walter Napleton Stone (1891-1917) was born on the 7th December 1891, the youngest son born to Edward and Emily Frances Stone, of Lansdowne Place, Blackheath, South London. Stone was educated at Harrow School and later he went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1910 but he left after just five terms. At some point Stone decided that his future lay elsewhere and he emigrated to Canada, where he met Mabel Maud Jukes in 1913, and with whom he had a son on the 21st May 1914, Reginald, who was named after one of Stone’s older brothers. There is no evidence to suggest the couple married, but after Stone’s death Mabel did marry an American, Mr. Eric Oliver Gurney, and Reginald Stone took his step-father’s surname.
By the time war was declared in August 1914, the Stone family had moved house to 21, Vanbrugh Park, Blackheath, and Stone returned there after leaving Canada, and joined the Inns of Court OTC on the 9th November and then went on to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, on the 29th December. He was commissioned into the 3rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) and attached to the 17th (Service) Battalion (Empire) which had been formed in London on the 31st August 1914 by the British Empire Committee and came under the command of the 99th Brigade, 33rd Division on the 26th June 1915, and landed in France on the 17th November 1915, though by the time Stone joined them on the 5th January 1916, the battalion had been transferred to the 5th Brigade, 2nd Division.
He was awarded the VC for his actions on the 30th November 1917 in the Cambrai Sector, France, which led to his death. His citation reads:
“For most conspicuous bravery when in command of a company in an isolated position 1,000 yards in front of the main line, and overlooking the enemy’s position. He observed the enemy massing for an attack, and afforded invaluable information to battalion headquarters. He was ordered to withdraw his company, leaving a rearguard to cover the withdrawal. The attack developing with unexpected speed, Capt. Stone sent three platoons back and remained with the rearguard himself. He stood on the parapet with the telephone under a tremendous bombardment, observing the enemy and continued to send back valuable information until the wire was cut by his orders. The rearguard was eventually surrounded and cut to pieces, and Capt. Stone was seen fighting to the last till he was shot through the head. The extraordinary coolness of this heroic officer and the accuracy of his information enabled dispositions to be made just in time to save the line and avert disaster.” — The London Gazette, 12th February 1918
Stone had listed his father as his next of kin and all relevant documents and belongings were forwarded to him upon his son’s death and Edward Stone received his son’s VC from the King on the 2nd March 1918, at Buckingham Palace.
His actual grave has never been located and he is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing, but there is a memorial to Stone in Greenwich Cemetery, south-east London. About thirty yards in front of the War Memorial is a group of graves of the Stone family. On the largest are the names of Stone’s parents, his father died in 1918 and his mother died in 1943, and underneath the inscription:
“also in memory of Lt Col Arthur Stone DSO, 16th Lancs. Fusiliers, second son of the above, killed 2nd October 1918; and Capt Walter Napleton Stone VC, 17th Royal Fusiliers, fifth son of the above, killed Bourlon Wood, France, 30th November 1917, presumed buried by the Germans near Moeuvres.”
Reginald Stone, after whom Stone’s son was named, served as a naval commander in the Royal Navy during the war and received a Distinguished Service Order.
A “W.N. Stone VC DSO MC” is listed on the parish war memorial in the Trinity Chapel of St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury, though there has been no evidence found that he ever lived in Shrewsbury, nor did he receive the Distinguished Service Order or Military Cross.
The family received Stone’s British War Medal and Victory Medal on the 30th September 1922, and along with the VC they are held in private hands.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE – ON CAMBRAI MEMORIAL, FRANCE. PANEL 3/4.
Derek Walker – Lewisham Shopping Centre Memorial to Stone VC
Terry Hissey – Harrow School Chapel Memorial featuring Stone VC
Gordon McKenzie – Image of the Stone VC DSO MC name on the St Mary’s Church Memorial in Shrewsbury.