Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

British WWI veteran dies aged 108

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William Stone spoke to BBC South's Ben Moore in 2007

One of only four surviving British veterans of World War I has died at the age of 108.

William Stone, from Watlington in Oxfordshire, was the last British serviceman to have seen active duty in both world wars.

Mr Stone, who was known as Bill, joined the Royal Navy on his 18th birthday in September 1918 and served on HMS Tiger.

In 2004 he was presented with the National Veterans' Badge. He died at a care home in Sindlesham, Berkshire.

Born in Ledstone, Kingsbridge, South Devon, on 23 September 1900, he followed his brothers into the navy, serving as a stoker.

During World War II he was a chief stoker on HMS Salamander and took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk, making five trips to pick up troops from the beaches.

He was a man of great faith and his recipe for long life was: clean living, contented mind and trust in God
Anne Davidson, daughter

Mr Stone also served in the Sicily landings of 1943 with HMS Newfoundland and was mentioned in despatches after a torpedo attack as the ship made its way back to Malta.

In an interview with the BBC in 2007, Mr Stone said: "Dunkirk was the worst part of my life.

"One of our sister ships, Skipjack, was bombed, and 200 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.

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

Mr Stone married Lily in 1938 and their daughter Anne was born the year after.

He went on to run a tobacconist and hairdressing shop in Devon, retiring in 1968 to move to Oxfordshire.

Mrs Stone died in 1995.

In a statement, Mr Stone's daughter said: "[He] had a remarkable, long, healthy and happy life.

WWI veterans
(L-R) Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone pictured last year

"He thoroughly enjoyed going to events, meeting people and, whenever possible, regaling those around him with his fund of naval stories and jokes.

"He was a very determined character both in his naval career and in civilian life and, no doubt, this contributed greatly to his longevity.

"He was a man of great faith and his recipe for long life was: clean living, contented mind and trust in God. His motto - 'keep going'.

"William will be sadly missed by his family and many friends".

The other known remaining British veterans of World War I are 112-year-old Henry Allingham and 110-year-old Harry Patch, who both live in Britain, and 107-year-old Claude Choules who lives in Australia.

Minister for Veterans Kevan Jones MP paid tribute to Mr Stone.

"We owe a great deal to the men and women who served this country with such distinction during those wars to protect our liberty," he said.

"[Mr Stone] was a man who represented the courage, spirit and determination of his generation. He was an inspiration to us all."

Mr Stone died on Saturday at the Masonic Care Home at Sindlesham near Wokingham, where he lived for the past two years.

A funeral will be held later in the month at St Leonard's Church in Watlington.

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