- Name: Charles Edwin STONE
- D.O.B: 4th Feb, 1889
- D.O.A: 21st Mar, 1918
- D.O.D: 29th Aug, 1952
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Gunner, C Battery, 83rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, 18th Division
Near St Quentin, France 21 March 1918
21 March 1918
The First World War 1918
On 21 March 1918, the first day of the German Spring offensive (see above), there was heavy fighting around the German held town of St Quentin, about twenty-five miles south-east of the VC actions near Bapaume. 8th Battalion The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regimentwas in the British Line at Le Verguier, about seven miles north-west of St Quentin. The German advance surrounded the village on three sides but, such was the strength of the resistance, it was not until the following day that they secured the village itself. It was here that Lance Corporal J W Sayer displayed great bravery in its defence. Four miles southwest of Le Verguier was Marteville. East of here and north-west of St Quentin 61st Division was in the line. Second Lieutenant J C Buchan, attached 1/8th Battalion (TF) Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, fought gallantly all day but his position was eventually overrun. In the same sector Lieutenant A E Ker and his men of 61st Battalion, Machine Gun Corps, though in a hopeless position, kept a significant force of the enemy engaged for three hours before they were forced to surrender. South of here the Front was manned by 30th Division. 16th Battalion The Manchester Regiment was in the line, a couple of miles due west of St Quentin, between the villages of Francilly-Selency and Savy. Just south of Francilly lay Manchester Hill with its Redoubt. As elsewhere, the forward positions were quickly overrun by the German advance and Manchester Redoubt was surrounded. However, Temporary Lieutenant Colonel W Elstob inspired his men to carry on resisting the enemy until he was killed during the final German assault at about 3.30pm. His last message to HQ was ‘Goodbye’. To the south-west of St Quentin 36th (Ulster) Division was in the line. When its forward positions were captured Second Lieutenant E de Wind, 15th Battalion The Royal Irish Rifles, held out until 6pm at Racecourse Redoubt, on the St Quentin-Chauny railway, near Grugies, two miles south of St Quentin. The thirty or so men left in the garrison were taken prisoner soon after de Wind was killed. Five or so miles to the south, 18th Division was in the line west of the Oise Canal around Vendeuil. 10th Battalion The Essex Regiment was left holding on to positions at Caponne Farm and Moulin Farm, supported by two artillery batteries from 83rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, C and D, commanded by Captain Haybittel and Lieutenant Ellis. At 8pm Captain Haybittel ordered C Battery to withdraw. Gunner C E Stone was one in a party of six men detailed to provide protective cover. Haybittel and Ellis were both awarded the DSO for their actions. Along most of the front, the German offensive had swept over British positions and in the south the Germans had advanced as far as the Crozat Canal, which linked the Oise to the Somme.
For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty. After working hard at his gun for six hours under heavy gas and shell fire, Gunner Stone was sent back to the rear section with an order. He delivered the order, and voluntarily, under a very heavy barrage, returned with a rifle to the forward position to assist in holding up the enemy on a sunken road. Lying in the open about 100 yards from the enemy under very heavy machinegun fire, he calmly and effectively shot the enemy until ordered to retire. He then took up a position on the right flank of the two rear guns and held the enemy at bay, though they again and again attempted to outflank the guns. During this period one of the enemy managed to break through, and, regardless of fierce machine-gun fire raging at the time, Gunner Stone rushed after him and killed him, thereby saving the flank of the guns. Later he was one of the party which captured the machine-gun and four prisoners who, in the dusk, had got round to the rear of the gun position. This most gallant act undoubtedly saved the detachment serving the guns. Gunner Stone’s behaviour throughout the whole day was beyond all praise, and his magnificent example and fine work through these critical periods undoubtedly kept the guns in action, thereby holding up the enemy on the battle zone at the most critical moment.