Charles Edwin Stone V.C. M.M. was celebrated in style at an event in Belper on 4th February.
Throughout the day Number 28 was bustling with visitors who, on what would have been Stone’s birthday, saw an exhibition that featured portraits, unseen photographs, newspaper articles and replicas of the Victoria Cross and the Military Medal which he was awarded exactly one hundred years ago on 4th February 1917.
The visitors included twenty relatives who brought along memorabilia and stories of not only Charles but also his brother, Edward, who died in on the Western Front in April 1917. The relatives travelled from as far away as Grantham, Brimingham and Twycross (as well as Belper, Derby and Duffield) to share their memories and recall someone who deserves the title ‘hero’. “He was very unassuming,” said Malcolm Hall. “He was liked by all of the family and he had no front or ego.”
Charles Edwin Stone was born at Street Lane, Denby in 1889. He was one of thirteen children and the family moved to Belper in 1894. Charles was a pupil at the Pottery School and he worked as a coal hewer at Denby Colliery. He joined the Royal Artillery in 1914. After World War One, Charles renewed his work at the colliery but left after a short time. He went to work on a farm just outside Ashbourne and it was here that he his quick actions saved a life. Charles was carrying a milk churn across the farm yard when Elizabeth Lees, a maid, ran from the farmhouse with her dress alight. Charles Stone removed his jacket, put it around Elizabeth and put the flames out. Miss Lees later said that he had saved her life.
“In an age when celebrity is a job description, Charles Stone should be a role model,” said George Gunby, one of the celebration organisers. “It’s clear that his thoughts were always for others.”
Adrian Farmer, Chair of the WW1 Commemorations Committee, said:
“It’s been a brilliant day. We’ve had lots more visitors than we expected. This is just the beginning as we approach the centenary of Charles Stone being awarded the Victoria Cross.”
The day also marked the start of the Hidden Histories project in partnership with Nottingham University. Research and interviews will attempt to discover what life was like in Belper directly after World War One. “Sacrifice”, a sculpture by local artist Andy Mayers, was on display. It is hoped that a permanent steel version will be installed in Belper’s Memorial Gardens by July 2017.
Amongst the visitors was Belper Town Councillor Tim Sutton who met the relatives and talked to them about Charles Stone and his exploits.
A small version of the Charles Stone exhibition will feature at a number of events in Belper during the summer including a World Heritage Day at Strutts on March 11 and prior to performances of the WW1 play Hamp during the Belper Arts Festival.
‘Celebrate Charles Stone’ was organised by the Chair of Belper Royal British Legion Kath Woodward, geneologist Lynne Beardmore, historian Richard Pinkett, designer Andy Mayers, Adrian farmer and George Gunby. The venue, Number 28, was supplied by Pippa Mansell.