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28 October 2014

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You are in: Berkshire > Features > People > 'Dunkirk was the worst part of my life'

William Stone

William Stone in 2005

'Dunkirk was the worst part of my life'

Wokingham man William Stone is, at the age of 107, one of only two ex-servicemen in Britain to have served in both world wars. In 2004 he was presented with the National Veterans' Badge.

"I joined the Navy on my birthday, 23 September 1918," says Bill Stone.

"The war was still on and I served from 1918 to 1945. My first ship was the Battle Cruiser H.M.S. Tiger. I joined her as a Stoker.

Ordinary Seaman Stone was still training when World War One ended. By the time of World War Two, he Chief Stoker Stone on the minesweeper Salamander.

"Dunkirk was the worst part of my life," says Bill. "One of our sister ships, Skipjack, was bombed, and two hundred soldiers and all crew were killed.

"During our trips to Dunkirk, I was often stationed on the quarterdeck helping men get aboard Salamander as they swam out from the beach.

William Stone

Bill on camera in 2007

"Those were awful days but one just carried on as if nothing had happened - there was nothing else that you could do."

Bill retired at the age of 68. In 2005, as part of the Trafalgar 200 celebrations, he was invited by the Navy to the Fleet Review in the Solent, and to participate in the Drumhead Ceremony at Southsea.

Until last October Bill was remarkably active, then fell and broke a hip. But he can still be found out and about with his local British Legion in Wokingham.

"A man stopped me in Oxford some time ago," remembers Bill. "'Mister,' he said, 'your bloody medals, we've got to pay tax for you.'

"I said, 'Mister, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't bloody well be here to pay taxes.'"

last updated: 12/11/07

You are in: Berkshire > Features > People > 'Dunkirk was the worst part of my life'

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