A memorial fit for a World War One hero

Chris Froggatt at the grave of charles Stone who was awarded the Victoria cross. Belper cemetary.
Chris Froggatt at the grave of charles Stone who was awarded the Victoria cross. Belper cemetary.

A campaign to honour Denby’s most decorated war hero has moved on leaps and bounds since it first featured in the News in July –with the possibility of a road being named after the brave bombardier.

Heage man Chris Froggatt launched a bid to see Victoria Cross winner Charles Stone’s grave renovated and a plaque placed by it over summer.

He was saddened by the fact that, with only a year to go until the centenary of World War One, the burial site of the courageous Denby man lay weather beaten in the corner of Belper Cemetery.

Heanor on the other hand, marked its most honoured war hero by naming the William Gregg VC Leisure Centre after him on Hands Road.

Architect Mr Froggatt now says his campaign is gathering pace.

The Victoria Cross Trust has backed the cause and is now seeking around £1,600 to renovate the moss covered grave and place a cast iron plaque next to it, containing details of how Mr Stone won the highest military honour in 1918.

He has also been in talks with Amber Valley Borough Council, which has confirmed that it plans to name a new road after Charles Stone VC, who died in 1952, aged 63.

Mid-Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham has also backed the scheme and the Victoria Cross Trust is currently in talks with Mr Stone’s former employer, Rolls Royce of Derby, about funding all or part of the venture.

Chris said: “It’s all moving on nicely now, but as long as we can get the grave sorted by next year I will be happy.

“If we can get the road name as well that will be fantastic.

“And the River Gardens in Belper is due to get a new coffee shop. They could name it after him couldn’t they?”

Mr Froggatt, who runs Architectural Building Design Services in Heanor, said he is also in talks with the Royal British Legion about carrying out a ceremony to unveil the renovated grave and plaque next year.

James Ricardo , whose deals with Amber Valley Borough Council’s street naming and numbering said a street will be named after Mr Stone the next time one becomes available.

He said: “If a new street pops up in the next year in the right area Charles Stone will be the next name used. As far as I’m concerned it’s a really good idea.”

The final name of the street would be consulted with the relevant parish council.

The Victoria Cross Trust, which seeks to preserve the legacy of the 1,358 recipients of the highest military honour for valour, has set up a Just Giving page for donations towards the grave restoration and plaque at www.justgiving.com/charlesstonevc

Gunner Stone, later promoted to bombardier, was awarded the highest military honour for his courage on March 21, 1918 at Caponne Farm in France.

After working at his gun for six hours under heavy gas and shell fire he held up the enemy on a sunken road, later capturing a machine-gun and four prisoners.

But his surviving niece told the News in August that the current condition of his grave hardly befits the full military burial he was given in 1952.

This week 90-year-old Kathleen Jennison said she was pleased to see progress with the campaign to better honour her uncle.

“I think it’s about time, because they did name a building after William Gregg.

“I’m glad he’s being appreciated at last.”