Judith Farrar visited the museum to tell us about Rifleman John Stoney, the uncle of her husband, Don.
John enlisted as R/41447 Private J Stoney, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, and was attached to the 9th battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles).
The final letter from John to his sister, Hilda still survives. The letter of 12th June mentions many things – a royal visit to Leeds, his hopes that his sister is selected for the school cricket team and the fact the locals in France ‘won’t even let us get water from their pumps.’ A key passage states ‘I was sorry to hear about the explosion at the munition works and hope the casualties are not so heavy as you say they are reported to be.’
He died tragically close to the end of the war, aged 18 on 25 August 1918 and is remembered at the Memorial in Vis-en-Artois.
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John was born in October 1876, the eldest son of Warrin and Ellen Mitton of Hawes. His father Warrin was both a joiner and a farmer. John married a girl from the Leyburn area, Mary Teresa, in July 1905 and had two daughters. Before joining the Army he spent four years as a postman in Raydaleside and previous to that, for about 14 years, a rural postman at Finghall near Leyburn. It was while he was there he got married. On leaving Finghall the people on his round presented him with a marble clock, pipe and a pouch containing some money. Needless to say he was a very well liked postman! He played for Hawes football team for many years, and for two years the club secretary. He was a fine billiards player and a member of Hawes Church choir. John was described as a cheery likeable chap. John enlisted at Leyburn joining the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and embarked for France at the end of July 1916. On April 7th 1917 the Battalion readied itself for the Arras Offensive which was due to start on the 9th. Private John Mitton was killed on that opening day. He was 40 years old. John is buried in the Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetary, SE of Arras.
John Thompson, husband of Martha and father figure to Thomas, John and Jonah, resided in Little Crakehall, Bedale, where he worked as a blacksmith – an occupation that in December 1914, aged 44 years, led him to be specially enlisted into the Army Service Corps to serve as a farrier. Unbeknown to his family, John’s service records reveal that in January 1915, he embarked with the British Expeditionary Force to the Western Front, being transferred to Egypt in October, and later transferred to Salonica, Greece in November. On one occasion in 1915, when on active service, John was found to be ‘drunk, out of bounds and improperly dressed’, offences for which he received a fine of five shillings on January 1st 1916- not a good way to start the new year! In July 1916, John was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, where he received treatment for myalgia, influenza and rheumatism in his feet and reported suffering from a ‘troublesome cough’. Following discharge from hospital in August, John was deemed ‘no longer physically fit for war services’ and subsequently returned home to Little Crakehall that September. John soon discovered that he was not the only family member to suffer in July 1916 – aged only 20, his son, John Jr, had been killed in the Battle of the Somme. On the 10th of July 1916, John Jr, serving with the 8th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, was ordered to attack and capture Contalmaison. Advancing from Horseshoe Trench, John came under…
Willimina ‘Minnie’ Melville 28/04/1886–11/02/1967 Minnie was born in Johnshaven, Scotland and volunteered for the British Red Cross in November 1916. She was initially stationed at Whalley Military Hospital as a VAD nurse from 4/11/1916 to 26/06/1917, before moving to Catterick Camp Military Hospital, again as a nurse, from 15/01/1918 until 6/04/1919. Willimina Melville, now Mrs Scales married James Jarvis Scales in 1922 and they were married up until her death on the 11th of February 1967. Minnie and Jim had emigrated and were living in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada in 1967. This information, provided by Alathea Anderssohn has been drawn from the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ archive.