Gilbert Charles Stone

Stop number BLUE 2: Walk to the avenue of lime trees ahead of you and take the first path up the hill to your right. Turn right after the grave for the Gotch family (this CWGC grave still has to be researched) and ahead of you will be a tall cross on a plinth. This is the plot for the Stone family.
Stone family plot
Stone family plot
Read the story below and when you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for E Brazil.
Gilbert Stone's memorial Hughenden Road
Gilbert Stone's memorial Hughenden Road (SWOP BFP03166)

Gilbert Charles Stone 1896-1916

My name is Gilbert Charles Stone and I was born in High Wycombe, Bucks in the year of 1896. My parents were called Joseph and Ada Stone and I was their only surviving child. They had suffered the loss of two other children and so I was especially dear to them.

For the majority of my childhood, we lived at No 65 Hughenden Rd, High Wycombe and my uncle, Charles Woodrow also lived there with us for quite a while. My life was normal as far as Wycombe goes since my father and my uncle were professional chair makers.

By the age of 15, I was in employment and worked as a clerk in a local estate agents. Yet it was in my teenage years when I was recruited into the army and joined the many other thousands of soldiers who were all part of World War I. My neighbour, Edgar Frank Newman, joined the army with me, and after we got put into the same Battalion we became war time friends. I was a private in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, the second Bucks Battalion, and my regimental number was 26615. Our infantry was part of the 61st British Division which was composed of battalions from Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

My wartime experiences began in May 1916, when my battalion left for Park House camp in Wiltshire. We didn’t do a huge amount of training, as we swiftly left the camp on the 25th to embark on our journey from Southampton to Le Havre, France. Here we remained for about 10 days while we were ordered up to depart for Fromelles, north of the Somme.

The first day of the Somme, on the 1st of July, had been a great loss for the allies, with 57,570 casualties in just one day. It was decided to launch an attack against the Germans at Fromelles with the hope that this would force the German High Command to move more troops to Fromelles from the Somme battlefield. The attack was to take place on the 17th but was postponed until the 19th July.

The British First Army, 61st first division plan shows my 2/1st group not far from the ‘sugar loaf’. This was what we called the higher German ground which faced the north-west.

On the 18th July our Company lost 78 men, as a shell from our own guns had fallen onto a gas cylinder and had burst into one of our trenches. This was an ominous event.

Our preparations for the attack on the 19th had been very rushed and we all lacked experience in trench warfare. We were feeling very nervous indeed as we faced the possibility of ‘going over the top’.

At 6am in the morning of the 19th, we attacked. Four waves of infantry leapt up from our trenches one after the other, but our commanders had gravely underestimated the power of the German defence. The German machine guns were very busy mowing down the advancing British soldiers and only a few soldiers made it across No Man’s Land and none of these came back.

No Man’s Land soon filled with the bodies of the dead and the wounded. It was evident that the attack had failed. Most of the officers had been killed and the battle failed to act as a diversion to the bloody Somme battle.

It was during this battle that I was killed in action, aged only 20 years. My body was never recovered and I am one of the 20,000 soldiers who are remembered at the Loos memorial in France.

My division was hugely disappointed with our failure and we called ourselves, self-mockingly the "sixty first worst Division". It seems that Adolf Hitler, then a corporal in the 16th Bavarian infantry also took part in the battle.

My parents had lost their only child and it was a loss that they never got over.

Gilbert Stone researched and performed by Isobel, Wycombe Abbey
Gilbert Stone researched and performed by Isobel, Wycombe Abbey
To see the performance on YouTube click here.

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