Who's Who - William Stones

William Joseph Stones was a coal miner who at 23, had enlisted as a volunteer in Crook, near Bishop Auckland in County Durham on 9th March 1915.

Earlier in the War, Stones would have been rejected for his lack of physical stature, but rising casualty lists and the insatiable demand for reinforcements caused the army to relax standards and accept under-aged and men of small stature into bantam regiments.

Stones was 5'2", weighed 128 lbs and had a 35inch chest.  He was a married man, with two daughters.

Stones was an exemplary soldier during his nine months of service at home and after the 19 Durham Light Infantry were drafted overseas at the end of January 1916.  His record and conduct during six gruelling months of trench warfare in Northern France was recognised in his promotion to Corporal and then after to Lance Sergeant.

Stones, his colleagues in the 19DLI, and all the men in the 35th Division suffered a mauling in July and August on the Somme, and the onset of winter imposed further stress on the survivors.

On the night of 25-26 November 1916, the 19DLI and two other battalions, were holding a section of the Front Line which had been broken up by explosions.  It was notoriously insecure and was often raided by parties of either side in order to gather intelligence.

On this night, Stones and Lieutenant Mundy were detailed to raid in the vicinity of the "King's Crater" a huge depression caused by an underground detonation.  They were ambushed and Mundy hit by revolver fire, subsequently dying.  Stones ran for his life, and was later found, unarmed, by the Battle Police in "a pitiable state of terror".

He was tried by court martial, found guilty of "casting away arms in the presence of the enemy" and executed.

Article submitted by Peter Drake, e-mail.

Biography Reference: Julian Putkowski, King's College.

A Greyback was a British Army shirt.

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