John Keith STONE


STONE, John Keith

Service Number: SX7740
Enlisted: 3 July 1940, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Driver
Last Unit: 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Wilmington, South Australia, 24 June 1910
Home Town: Willowie, Mount Remarkable, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in Action, Egypt, 17 July 1942, aged 32 years
Cemetery: El Alamein War Cemetery
El Alamein War Cemetery: Grave number 4H4
Memorials: Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Willowie WW2 Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

3 Jul 1940: Enlisted 2nd AIF WW 2, Private, SN SX7740, Adelaide, South Australia
17 Jul 1942: Involvement 2nd AIF WW 2, Driver, SN SX7740, 2nd/48th Infantry Battalion, El Alamein
Date unknown: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Di Barrie

John Keith Stone was born at Wilmington 24 July 1910, eldest child of John and Julia Charlotte (nee Turner) Stone. John and Lottie farmed Sections 11w, 11e, and 12, Hundred of Pinda.

Keith (as he was known) enlisted for service on the 24th June 1940, and joined the 2/48 Battalion (Btn). The 2/48 Btn was formed in 1940, and as part of 26 Brigade was assigned to the 7th Division during training but subsequently formed part of the 9th Division AIF. 7 November 1940 Keith boarded the troopship HMT ‘Stratheden’ for the Middle East, arriving at El Kantara, Egypt - before boarding a train to Dimra, Palestine, arriving there on 18 December. Intensive training in desert warfare followed.

11 January 1941 he was transferred to the 2/1st Australian General Hospital (AGH) with mumps, returning to his unit 22 January. Two days earlier, on 18 January 1941 he had qualified as Group III Driver Mechanic of a Universal or Bren Gun Carrier. These were fast, lightly armed vehicles designed to carry small groups of infantry across ground exposed to small arms fire, or a Bren light machine gun and its team.

In April of 1941,the 9th Division fell back to the port city of Tobruk after a German-led counter-attack, ‘holding the fortress’ for the next eight months.

Keith was wounded in action (shrapnel wound to the head) 19 August 1941 and again found himself in hospital. In a letter home he wrote ”My injuries were only very slight, and I have suffered no ill effects at all. I was only six days off duty, not bad going for several months of war but I must admit I had more fright than roast dinners” Later, in the same letter, he detailed the conditions the men had to endure. “Spent the night in a flash hotel, a bit of a contrast to going to bed in the open, with just a hole in the ground for shelter like I did for so many months. When one wanted to go to bed in the desert it was necessary to dig a hole to sleep in, as a wind break and a bit of protection from shells etc, I used to feel a lot safer if I was below ground level, and it was nothing unusual to wake up and find one’s self almost buried in sand”

In October 1941 the majority of the 9th Division (including the 2/48th) were withdrawn from Tobruk and sent to Palestine and Syria for rest and garrison duties. Keith re-joined his unit 5 December 1941. May 13th 1942 he wrote to his fiancée, Frances Mabel Lock of Coonatto Station – “I have the carrier parked under an olive tree alongside of a stream, and have just been in for a bath, the water is only about a foot deep, but still there have been plenty of times when I have washed in a lot less water”

In July 1942 Axis forces had reached El Alamein in Egypt. The 9th Division was rushed to the Alamein area holding the northern sector for almost four months, its orders for the first main attack were issued on the 7th July. The 26th Brigade would advance along the coast and capture the feature known as "Tel el Eisa", running north-west between the railway line and the sea, creating a wedge between the Germans and the sea.17 July 1942, John Keith Stone was killed in most tragic circumstances. The 2/48th unit war diaries, for June 1942, record the events leading to his death.

The object of this raid was to disrupt any preparations on TEL EL EISA ridge. Three sections of carriers were deployed, with one additional Bren gunner on each carrier. Whilst on the TEL EL EISA ridge our carriers opened up with intense fire with LMG’s and TSMG’s (Thompson Sub Machine Guns) shooting up the general area, including some enemy MG posts at 40 yards range.

The carriers returned from the operation with only one light casualty, but at the rallying point considerable enemy artillery fire and mortar fire was encountered causing some confusion and one section commander led his section into our own minefield causing casualties – two killed and four lightly wounded".

 Keith was 32 years of age. He is now interred at the Commonwealth War Grave cemetery at El Alamein - Grave number 4H4.

Source: "Diggers From the Dust" Di Barrie & Andrew Barrie.