Dambuster of the Day No. 32: Antony Stone

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[Pic: Alan Kinge]

Sgt A J B Stone
Wireless operator

Lancaster serial number: ED906/G
Call sign: AJ-J
First wave. Fifth aircraft to attack Möhne Dam. Mine dropped accurately, causing large breach. Aircraft returned safely.

Antony Stone was born in Winchester, Hampshire, on 5 December 1920. His father was a barber, and had a shop in the centre of the town. Stone trained as a chef after leaving school, and had worked at several well known London restaurants before volunteering for the RAF in 1940.
He was selected for wireless operator training, passing through various training centres, and qualified also as an air gunner. When he arrived at No.10 OTU at St Eval, his path crossed with Vivian Nicholson and John Fort, and they moved onto the final stages of training together, before meeting up with David Maltby at 97 Squadron.
On the raid, Stone was responsible for starting up the motor which revolved the mine backwards, and checking that it had reached the correct speed of 500rpm before the aircraft started its bombing run.
Four months after the raid, on 14 September 1943, Stone took off from RAF Coningsby on 617 Squadron’s first major operation since the Dams Raid. When their aircraft suffered its final crash it sank with the bodies of all the crew except the pilot, so he has no known grave.
When the news reached his family in Winchester, his mother Dorothy was so shocked she was determined to find out more, and set off by train to Coningsby. She was shown into adjutant Harry Humphries’ office in a state of shock, asking him repeatedly: ‘Did he suffer? Did he suffer?’ She then disarmed Humphries by saying that she was glad that there were brave men like him carrying on the fight. As he noted in his autobiography, sadly, the only battles he fought were against official letters and forms.
Antony Stone left a letter for his parents, only to be opened on the event of his death. A fragment of it survives in a typescript version in the possession of the Maltby family:

I will have ended happily, so have no fears of how I ended as I have the finest crowd of fellows with me, and if Skipper goes I will be glad to go with him. He has so much more to lose and more responsibilities than I and you can rest assured and know that I’ve taken hundreds with me who lived as you do and never even gloried in the war as I did and I still experience that same thrill every time I fly.

His father kept his photograph in his shop until the day he retired, and it is still recalled by generations of boys and men who had their hair cut by him.
Antony Stone is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

More about Stone online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Breaking the Dams website

KIA 15 September 1943.

Rank and decorations as of 16 May 1943.
Sources: Charles Foster, Breaking the Dams, Pen and Sword 2008
Richard Morris, Guy Gibson, Penguin 1995
John Sweetman, The Dambusters Raid, Cassell 2002

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David Maltby’s last flight: possible Mosquito collision

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Sqn Ldr David Maltby and his Dams Raid crew, pictured in August 1943, at RAF Blida North Africa. Sadly, they were all killed over the North Sea a month later. Standing L-R: Victor Hill, Antony Stone, John Fort, David Maltby, William Hatton, Harold Simmonds. In front: Vivian Nicholson. [Pic: Grace Blackburn]

Today’s Sunday Express contains a two page feature about the last flight of Sqn Ldr David Maltby and his crew, on 14/15 September 1943, almost exactly four months after the Dams Raid. This was an attack on the Dortmund Ems canal, which was called off when weather conditions over the target were found to have deterioriated. As Maltby turned the aircraft back towards base, some sort of explosion occurred and it crashed into the sea with the loss of everyone on board.
What caused the explosion has been the subject of some speculation over many years. When researching my book, Breaking the Dams, I came across some documents in the National Archives which indicate that the crash may have occurred because of a collision with a Mosquito on another raid, out of radio contact and also returning to base. The Mosquito was from 139 Squadron, and was piloted by Flt Lt Maule Colledge. he full story is told in my book, and in abbreviated form on my other website, breakingthedams.com.