Heroic Merchant Navy mariner awarded OBE and Lloyds medal for WW2 bravery

THE remarkable career of a heroic Merchant Navy mariner who was made an OBE for his bravery in WW2 is being celebrated as his medals go under the hammer.

Captain Charles Thomas Stone first went to sea at 14 years old – having lied that his age was 15.

It was the start of a distinguished 50 years at sea which saw him see the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, rescue sailors from drowning in the Atlantic after being torpedoed in World War Two and become the longest serving commodore in the General Steam Navigation Company’s history.

Captain Stone’s medals archive features as Lot 308 in Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ upcoming specialist militaria sale at The Tamworth Auction Rooms, Church Street, on Wednesday September 28, starting at 9.30am.

View the catalogue online here

“This is a complete archive of medals, photographs and ephemera to a very brave captain in the Merchant Navy who saw action in both world wars and received the Lloyd’s medal for saving souls in the Atlantic when a convoy was torpedoed by German U boats,” said militaria specialist Nick Thompson.

“Born in 1892, the young Stone first set to sea aboard the sailing vessel Latimer – a four-masted barque carrying oil in cans – and when the ship arrived via Cape Horn at San Francisco in 1906 the crew was stunned to find the city in ruins following the earthquake just weeks earlier, of which they knew nothing.

“It was the start of a career which would see huge changes to seafaring from great sailing vessels and traditional steam to diesel ships and the age of the nuclear submarine.”

The archive of Captain Stone records a remarkable career as a heroic Merchant Navy mariner.
The archive of Captain Stone records a remarkable career as a heroic Merchant Navy mariner.

Stone joined the General Steamship Navigation Company before the First World War and would serve a total of 43 years, all but 10 as master – equivalent to captain – which he became in 1924.

His service in WW1 saw Capt Stone awarded the Merchantile Marine War Medal and in WW2 he was presented with the OBE and was an early recipient of the Lloyds medal for bravery at sea – one of only 523 ever awarded.

“During World War Two, Stone would see action on several occasions,” said Mr Thompson.

“By this time he was captain on the Starling. The vessel was part of a Naval convoy sailing from Gibraltar to Liverpool when it was attacked by a ‘wolf pack’ of U-boats.

“On the evening of September 27 1941, the escort carrier HMS Springbank and other vessels were hit including the Cervantes, sunk by U201 Capitan Adalbert Schnee.

“Stone used cargo nets and ropes to rescue survivors from the Cervantes, and others who the Cervantes had previously picked up, plus survivors from HMS Springback.

“Totals vary but rescued sailors are estimated as at least 107.

“Stone also survived a direct hit on the Starling by a German bomber the year before which killed six crew.

“He limped into Cadiz to bury the dead and carried on his duties.”

Captain Stone received the OBE for saving souls in the Atlantic during WW2.
Captain Stone received the OBE for saving souls in the Atlantic during WW2.

In 1945 he was promoted to commodore of the company’s fleet and held that position until he retired – as the longest serving commodore – to Bradfield in Essex in 1957.

The archive – all contained in a wooden chest – includes the Lloyds medal, named to Captain C T Stone SS Starling October 12, 1940; Stone’s boxed OBE and a miniature boxed OBE; and the named Merchantile Marine War medal.

The latter is on a wearing bar alongside a WW1 Victory medal named to 101869 Gnr JE Stone RA, who is listed as dying from wounds on August 2 1916 in France.

The group continues with the 1939-45, Atlantic and Burma Stars and a War Medal with MID wreath.

Stone’s Lloyds medal, one of the earliest instances of its award.
Stone’s Lloyds medal, one of the earliest instances of its award.

There is also a large glazed certificate for the award of the OBE, documents including Stone’s passport, a silver hallmarked box engraved with Stone’s initials dated July 1 1928, two pairs of binoculars and a wealth of photographs.

The archive is estimated to sell for £2,000 to £2,500 at auction.

Capt Stone lived into his 90s and survived his three brothers, wife Kathleen and their only son Roger, who died aged 55.

In an obituary, the veteran seafarer was described as ‘a big man in every sense with an iron handshake and a tough decisive if gentle nature’.

“He was always a centre of calm, whether foursquare on a heaving bridge dodging enemy bombs or weaving a fireside tail over his favourite whisky,” the piece remembered.

Formerly a sergeant in the Medical Staff Corps, William Green tended to Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. He was later deployed to India and the medal he was awarded for that campaign – coming up for auction on September 28 – can be seen pinned to his jacket in this photo.
Formerly a sergeant in the Medical Staff Corps, William Green tended to Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. He was later deployed to India and the medal for that campaign can be seen pinned to his jacket in this photo.

The auction at Tamworth also features a medal and ephemera to William Green from Stafford, who worked alongside Florence Nightingale in the Crimea; the medals, Death Plaque and paperwork to Basil Henry Belcher, who went over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme; and the medals of a soldier in the 14th London Regiment who went to France in 1914, was promoted to lieutenant and, unusually, then served in the newly formed RAF.

Additional lots also include a rare Kriegsmarine diver’s dagger from the Second World War and a jerkin which has been sewn with original WW2 patches collected by a member of the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers’ Stamps, Militaria & Ephemera Sale starts at 9.30am on Wednesday, September 28.

View the catalogue online here

Viewing at The Tamworth Auction Rooms, Church Street, is on Tuesday, September 27 from 10am-4pm by appointment.

For more information and valuations, telephone 01827 217746 or email tamworth@richardwinterton.co.uk.

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