The Farm Labourer
He Died Nobly37
Born in July 189413, in the Union Workhouse of Ellesmere, Robert Edge was the son of Matilda Evans, a Domestic Servant12. Unable to care for him, it had fallen to her older sister Georgina1 and her husband, John Stone2, to take him in as part of their own family in nearby Cockshutt2.
A bricklayer2 by trade, John would have worked hard to support his family, picking up contracting work whenever he could40; it would have been a life dominated by hardship. In all likelihood, money was tight, subject to the vagaries of the weather and availability of work40, whilst living conditions in their small, three-bedroomed house2 would have been cramped. Even so, with his nephew in need, John had given him a home and taken him under his guiding hand.
Growing up in the close-knit “flourishing agricultural”34 parish, Robert would have spent much of the time carrying out domestic chores, such as splitting wood and collecting water from the village pump39. At the earliest opportunity, he would have taken-on small jobs around the farms and village so as to help with the family finances39.
With few opportunities for play39, Robert would undoubtedly have enjoyed taking part in the various “parochial sports” and “games”7, such as those held in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee25, which led to over-zealous merrymaking and “considerable drunkenness”, much to the chagrin of the “disgusted Vicar”26.
After leaving school Robert worked as a farm labourer2. But, as war broke out, the die was cast; his destiny once again in the hands of others. As the carnage on the battlefields intensified and the death toll increased, so the demand for enlistment escalated. By the end of 1915, Robert Evans Stone (possibly reflecting the close bond between uncle and nephew) had enlisted with the 6th (PALS) Battalion of the KSLI11; he entered the France & Flanders Theatre of War in 19166.
Private R Stone (as he was officially known) 3292211, served a long, hard war; as surviving Service Records24 reveal, he would have progressively weakened and deteriorated, with at least one admission into hospital. During his time of active service, Robert was deployed with his Battalion, to the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme in 191622, Langemarcke, the Menin Road Ypres and against the Hindenberg Line in 191722.
With the onset of Spring 1918, the Germans launched their “Spring Offensive” against the Allied positions on the Somme42, the intention being to end the war before “The Americans can throw strong forces into the scale”35. As the attack began on 21st March, the Germans launched over one million shells in just five hours (3,000 shells every minute)35. Over 38,000 casualties were sustained, 8,000 of whom were killed in action; it was the second worst day of losses in British military history11.
On 22nd March 1918, Private R Stone 32922 was reported missing and subsequently identified as a Prisoner of War24. Seriously injured, he was reported as being cared for in a German “Feldlazarett”24 (Field Hospital) where he died of wounds43 on 24th March 191811.
Posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal6, his final resting place is at St. Souplet British Cemetery, France11.
We Will Remember Him.
Private R Stone 32922, 6th (PALS) Battalion, KSLI
Died of wounds, in hospital on 24th March 1918
St. Souplet British Cemetery, France
France You would not know him now …
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With Violets of pride
Purple from Severn Side38.
|1||1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG13, Piece No 2550, Folio 8, Page 7|
|2||1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG14PN16180 RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED3 SN36|
|3||24 Hrs at the Somme 1 July 1916, Robert Kershaw, 2016, WH Allen, Penguin Random House, ISBN: 9780753555484|
6th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=6448
|6||British Army Medal Index Cards 1914-1920, WO 372/19/73564, Series WO3272, National Archives|
|7||Churchwardens’ Account Book for Cockshutt from 1794 to 1926, Milestones in the History of a North Shropshire Rural Parish, August 1956, Shropshire Magazine, Parish Pack 2, Shropshire Archives|
Cockshutt C of E School, www.cockshuttcofeprimary.co.uk
|9||Cockshutt War Memorial, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
Combat and the Soldier’s Experience in the First World War, Vanda Wilcox, 29th January 2014, British Library, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/combat-and-soldiers-experiences
Commonwealth War Graves, How 21st March 1918 Became the Second Worst Day in British Military History, https://www.cwgc.org/learn/news-and-events/news/2018/01/31/10/00/how-21-march-1918-became-the-second-worst-day-in-british-military-history
|12||GRO Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, 1894, Ellesmere, Salop|
|13||GRO Index England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg. 648|
|14||GRO Index England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg. 659|
|15||GRO Index England & Wales Marriages 1837-2005, Ellesmere, Shropshire, Vol 6A, pg. 943|
|16||Harold Stone served with the Bedfordshire Regiment. He returned after the war and is named on the 1914-1919 Roll of Honour, inside the Church|
|17||How Cruel Was the Victorian Poor Law? David Roberts, 1963, Historical Journal, 6, 97-107|
|18||King Edward VII 1901-1910|
King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, 1914-1918, http://shropshireregimentalmuseum.co.uk/regimental-history/shropshire-light-infantry/the-kings-shropshire-light-infantry-1914-1918/
Langemarcke at Ypres, Wilfred Campbell, 1917, A Treasury of War Poetry, https://www.bartleby.com/266/1001.html
Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, July 1894, August 1894, September 1894, November 1917, https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive-hidden-treasures/monthly-weather-report
|22||Notes on the Shropshire Regiments, Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle, 2007|
Photograph of the Final Resting Place of Robert Stone, The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org
|24||Prisoner of War Lists, Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives, https://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/List/3289656/698/25450|
|25||Private John Edmund Rogers, Australian Imperial Force 2698|
|26||Queen Victoria (1837-1901)|
|27||Rev. Henry Jenkins Wilcox, Vicar of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt (Incumbent 1881-1907)|
|28||Rev. John Rowley Donald, Vicar of SS Simon & Jude Church, Cockshutt (Incumbent 1907-1921)|
|29||Roll of Honour, 4th August 1914 - 28th June 1919, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|30||Roll of Honour, Lest We Forget, Shropshire, Cockshutt War Memorial, Martin Edwards 2017|
|31||Shropshire Pack 1, Shropshire Archives|
|32||Shropshire’s Sacrifice in the Great War, Neil Evans & Phil Morris, 12th October 2014, Bluprint, ISBN 978 0 9931233 1 3|
|33||Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919, Naval and Military Press Ltd 2010|
|34||The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|35||The County Around Ellesmere is Full of Charm and Interest, H. Clayton Jones, Shropshire Magazine, March 1959, Shropshire Archives|
The German Spring Offensive of 1918, CN Trueman, 17th April 2015, The History Learning Site, https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/battles-of-world-war-one/the-german-spring-offensive-of-1918/
The Group System Derby Scheme, http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/enlisting-into-the-army/the-group-scheme-derby-scheme/
|38||To His Love, Ivor Gurney, 1917|
Union Workhouse Ellesmere, www.workhouses.org.uk
Victorian Children in Victorian Times, Baxton Price, 11 December 2012, www.victorianchildren.org
Victorian History, Income vs Expenditure in Working Class Victorian England, Dr Bruce Rosen, 19th June, 2014, http://vichist.blogspot.com/2014/05/income-vs-expenditure-in-working-class.html
|42||War Diary, 20th Division, 60th Infantry Brigade, 6th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, July 1915-April 1919, pgs. 39,41(1.3), National Archives|
|43||World War One, Rupert Colley, 2012, William Collins, ISBN: 978 0 00 753911 6|
World War One, Training to be A Soldier, Jonathan Boff, British Library, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/training-to-be-a-soldier#
|45||WW1 A Layman’s Guide, Scott Addington, 2012, Amazon, ISBN: 9 781495 911569, pgs. 138-139|
|46||The Wellington Journal, 14th December 1918, X8936/1918/12/2/357760 Shropshire Archives|