Then There Were Two; (1) the Young Sailor: Bill Stone in 1926 (2) Final Salute: Bill Stone (Ringed), with Henry Allingham and Harry Patch at the Cenotaph

Daily Mail (London), January 13, 2009 | Go to article overview

Then There Were Two; (1) the Young Sailor: Bill Stone in 1926 (2) Final Salute: Bill Stone (Ringed), with Henry Allingham and Harry Patch at the Cenotaph


Byline: MATTHEW HICKLEY

HONOURED and cherished, they were the last surviving Britons to have served in the First World War.

Despite their frailty, the three men were given pride of place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall two months ago to help mark the 90th anniversary of the end that great conflict.

But yesterday only two remained. Former Royal Navy sailor Bill Stone died at the weekend aged 108.

He leaves behind him Henry Allingham, the country's oldest man at 112, and 110-year-old Harry Patch. Another veteran, Claude Choules, 107, has emigrated to Australia.

Mr Stone - who was also the last Briton alive who served in both world wars - died on Saturday at his retirement home in Berkshire, with his family at his side.

Yesterday relatives and friends recalled his warmth and humour - and his love of regaling those around him with his vast store of wartime songs and memories.

He joined the Royal Navy when he turned 18 in the final months of the First World War - his father had refused to let him sign on any earlier because three older brothers were already in the Navy - and served for another 27 years.

Last night Mr Stone's daughter Anne Davidson, 69, paid tribute to a 'cheery man who loved a song'.

'William was a wonderfully determined man,' she said. 'His motto on life was "keep going". He certainly did that, and we are all going to miss him terribly. William had a remarkable, long, healthy and happy life.'

'He had an enjoyable Christmas. But he developed a very bad chesty cold last week, which this time he simply couldn't shake off.'

Derek Elliott, secretary of the Watlington branch of the Royal British Legion in Oxfordshire, where Bill was a member, said: 'He was a much-loved figure, and obviously our oldest member by some way.

'For us it's the end of an era. …

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