(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Robert was born on the 18th June 1892 in Wrightington, between Wigan and Chorley in Lancashire. He was baptised at St James' Church on the 24th November. His father was called John Francis Stone and his mother was Elizabeth Ellen. He had an older brother called John Forest Stone, and 3 younger siblings: Charles William, Francis and Eliza Jane. The family had lost one other child by 1911, but we don't know their name.
John was a police officer. The family had moved from Chadderton in Oldham to Robin Hood in Wrightington between April 1891 and Robert's birth. By 1901 the family had moved to 245 Stubbins in Edenfield, near Ramsbottom.
At some point between then and 1911 John retired from the police. He began to farm at Higher Stubbins Farm. Robert was old enough to go out to work by this year; he was a labourer for a calico printer.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Robert joined the Army between January and March 1915. He chose to enlist in the 6th City Battalion. The City Battalions were 'Pals' units that were being formed by the men of Manchester so that they could serve together. The 6th City Battalion became the 21st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Robert was given the service number 19837.
In 1914 and 1915 the Army was expanding rapidly. Most of the new recruits had no Army experience, and there were not enough senior soldiers to command them. Men with experience of leadership at work or in a social setting were often promoted rapidly and given command over their fellow recruits. This is likely to be what happened to Robert. He quickly became a Sergeant in IX Platoon of C Company.
The 21st Battalion trained at Heaton Park in Manchester and then Morecambe in Lancashire. During April 1915 they moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. The battalion moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire that September. They were based here until the 9th November, when they sailed to France.
Early 1916 was spent around Mametz near Fricourt. The battalion took its turn in the front line and took part in raids on the German trenches. During June the battalion began training to take part in the Somme Offensive, which was scheduled to begin on the 1st July.
On the 1st July the 21st Battalion took part in the attack on Mametz. This was successful, but costly. The battalion was not used again until the 14th, when they fought at High Wood as part of the Battle of Bazentin Ridge. After this battle the battalion was taken out of the front line until the 29th July. They then returned to the trenches and were stationed to the south of Delville Wood.
During August the 21st Battalion was hard at work improving their trenches. They needed to be made deeper, and more robust. During the night they used the cover of darkness to dig a new trench in front of their existing line. This would move them closer to the German positions, meaning they would have less ground to cover during an attack.
Although the battalion was not involved in any attacks, this was not a safe environment. Rain turned the ground to mud, which made digging difficult. The battalion was also shelled throughout their time in the line. The battalion was relieved on the 1st September. They lost around 50 men during their time in the front line.
Robert was one of the men lost. He died on the 29th August, aged 24. His body was never found so along with 72,202 other soldiers he is now listed on the Thiepval Memorial in France. Robert is on Pier 13 Face A or Pier 14 Face C.
Robert's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in November 1996. As well as his British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal, Robert was also awarded the 1914-15 Star for his Army service.