Wireless operator: Flt Sgt Antony Stone

Antony Joseph Bazeley Stone was the younger son of a family of two boys.

His father, Joseph Stone, had an eventful life. He was Jewish, and had been born in Russia at the end of the 19th century. The family legend is that he was brought to London by the Rothschild family, who were certainly involved at the time in helping Jewish families escape the pogroms. He trained as a barber in Hackney and joined the Rifle Brigade at the beginning of the First World War. This brought him to Winchester, and he stayed there after the war where he met and married a Hampshire girl called Dorothy Grace Bazeley. Joe set up as a barber in a shop in Jewry Street in the city. Their second son was born at home in Nuns Road, Winchester on 5 December 1920.

Antony went first to the local Hyde School and sang in the choir at St Bartholomew’s Church. He then went to Peter Symonds School in Winchester. On leaving school, he decided to train as a chef, and went up to London to do so, studying at the Westminster Technical Institute. He worked at various well known restaurants, including Quaglino’s, the Dorchester and the Ritz, cooking at one time for the King and Queen.

In 1940 he volunteered for the RAF, and was called up in November 1940 to the same Reception Centre at Uxbridge as David had been through a few months earlier. He was selected for wireless operator training, and passed through various training centres at Thorney Island, Yatesbury and Bassingbourn.

Training as a wireless operator meant being able to read and transmit Morse Code at a speed of at least 18 words a minute. There were also a large number of ‘Q codes’ which had to be memorised. These were three letter codes all beginning with ‘Q’ that were requests or instructions to be sent to and from the base, covering such things as requests from the base for weather updates (QBZ) or from the aircraft for permission to land (QFO). Wireless training also meant gaining a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge about radios and all the other electrical equipment on board. This meant that the wireless operator on a heavy bomber often picked up other ancillary duties. On Operation Chastise, for instance, it became his job to start and supervise the rotation mechanism for the special mine ten minutes before the bombing run began.

At the time Antony was passing through the system, wireless operators also had to have gunnery training, although this requirement was removed later in the war. His last piece of specialist training was therefore at No.1 Air Gunnery School, at RAF Pembrey in Carmarthenshire. Then it was on to No.10 OTU at St Eval, where his path crossed with Vivian Nicholson and John Fort.

By the time he arrived at 617 Squadron Antony was engaged to a nurse at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Peggy Henstridge, although it’s not certain when the relationship began.

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Antony Stone, late 1942. Picture: Alan Kinge.