Mr. Norman Stones

Norman Stones (c. 1887 - 1964), 28, was a professional vocalist by trade, and a poultry and fruit farmer in Texada Island, British Columbia, Canada. Stones was traveling on Lusitania with his wife, Hilda Mary.  Norman and Hilda were returning to England to see her sick mother. Both Norman and Hilda went down with the ship when the Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U-20 on 7 May 1915. Norman survived, Hilda did not. He was saved by the rescue vessel Indian Empire.


Norman Stones was originally from Penistone, Yorkshire, England. He moved to British Columbia and became a rancher and occasional nightclub singer. In Vancouver in 1912, he married Hilda Joy, a successful actress and singer from Leeds, Yorkshire. In May of 1915, Norman and Hilda were returning to Ilkley, Leeds, aboard Lusitania after receiving word that Hilda’s mother was in poor health. Friends in Leeds, where Norman and Mary Hilda were well remembered, had hoped that the German warning would have caused them to defer their travel plans. Hilda's final performance was at the concert the night before the disaster, on 6 May. Norman Stones's account does not mention which songs she sang, but it is almost certain that the young married woman with the beautiful voice whom Phoebe Amory wrote of in her booklet, was Mrs. Stones. Mrs. Amory recalled that the young woman sang “The Rosary.”
We had just had lunch with the first sitting down, and had come upon deck. My wife and I were looking over the side from C Deck when I saw the track of a torpedo. It appeared to make a white, creamy, track apparently about six inches wide, and when I first saw it, it was between 200 and 300 yards from the ship. I saw no sign of a submarine, not a periscope or anything else. We watched the track of the torpedo as if fascinated, and saw it strike the ship between the funnels. We were second class passengers and were more or less confined to the stern of the ship. We were standing near to the railing dividing us from the saloon passengers, and would be at least 50 yards away from where the torpedo struck the ship. We heard the explosion and it was nothing very terrifying; we saw a cloud of spray thrown high into the air, and the next we knew was that water and wreckage were falling into the sea near us and on the decks above us. As we were not on the top deck, we were protected from the falling debris. The torpedo did not make a very big noise and did not shake the ship very much. All we felt was a slight tremor. The ship, however, immediately began to heel over to the starboard side, and so far as I know she never righted herself. I did not hear a second explosion like the first one, and am inclined to believe that only one torpedo was fired. The ship certainly gave an extra lurch shortly afterwards, but it appeared to me to be due to an internal explosion of the shifting of the cargo. At the time of the attack there were few passengers on deck, but immediately following the explosion there was a rush of passengers to the deck, and at first most of them crowded on to the port side, which was the highest out of the water. My wife and I walked over to the port side. There was quite a lot of excitement, but no panic--no fighting or anything of that sort. The stewards were the best of the crew, in my opinion. They certainly did not show any panic; if any portion of the crew was inclined to be panicky or excited it was the firemen and trimmers who came up from below. The stewards went round quietly serving out lifebelts. In regard to the launching of the boats, there appeared to be a complete lack of system. Near to us at the stern on the port side, no boat was launched except for one which fell into the water bow first. Officers and members of the crew went round saying that there was no immediate danger and that the ship would float for at least an hour. In consequence of this, a number of passengers made no effort to get lifebelts and were probably taken by surprise when the end came.
Norman Stones retrieved lifebelts for himself and Hilda. Norman removed the clothing from his unprotesting wife, in public and broad daylight, until she was in her stockings.  He then strapped her lifebelt to her. They planned to climb down the ropes from the wrecked lifeboat, and then swim clear of the ship. They hoped to find wreckage to cling to, or to be picked up by a boat. Norman then started tearing the canvas off a nearby collapsible boat, which should have been done earlier, but the crew seemed so convinced that the large Lusitania was not going to sink that no one had done so until then.  Archie Donald helped him. The Lusitania’s final plunge came so quickly that they barely had time to jump over the side and into the water. Mrs. Stones took bank notes from her purse, and placed them into Norman’s pockets. She remained calm as she took hold of the rope, cleared the side of the ship, and jumped down into the water. It was the last time her husband would see her. Mr. Stones followed his wife into the water, and both were immediately pulled under the surface as the Lusitania sank next to them. Norman Stones saw wreckage float past him as he fought to clear the sinking ship's suction. He surfaced and was pulled under again. The second time he surfaced, the roiling water had subsided:
I never saw my wife again. There was no sign of the ship, but the water was full of drifting struggling bodies and wreckage. I got hold of a folded deck chair, and hung on to it for about half an hour, swimming and floating and looking for my wife. At the end of that time I drifted near an upturned boat, to the bottom of which about six men were clinging. I joined them, and we drifted about for hours until we were picked up by the stream trawler Indian Empire and taken to Queenstown. At the finish, we had about 20 persons clinging to the upturned boat.
Hilda's body was never recovered. Phoebe Amory wrote that the husband of the young woman who sang at the concert promised, in her presence, to enlist and kill a lot of Germans. A news article from 1915 has further quotes from Norman:
Mr. Stones comments on the fact that although the trawler, only an eight knot boat, landed them in Queenstown only two hours after they were picked up, it was four hours after the accident before fast destroyers arrived on the scene. In that time a destroyer could have traveled a hundred miles, and rescued passengers were inclined to ask the reason for this delay. There is no doubt that the confident attitude of the officers and crew, and there statement that the ship would float for at least for an hour – excellent though the intention was - blinded passengers to the imminence of the danger. “We should have been over the side before if it had not been for that statement, and we probably should not have been sucked down with the ship” said Mr. Stones.
Norman went on to join a University Officer's Training Corps in England. He eventually remarried. He died in Exmoor, England, on 7 September 1964. Hoehling and Hoehling write in The Last Voyage of the Lusitania that Stones was a veteran of General Pershing's expedition after Pancho Villa on the Mexican border, but this seems not to be the case.

Links of interest

Norman and Hilda Stones at Lest We Forget – Encyclopedia Titanica

Contributors Cliff Barry, UK Jim Kalafus, USA Peter Kelly, Ireland Michael Poirier, USA References Hoehling, A.A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956. Jim Kalafus, Michael Poirier, Cliff Barry and Peter Kelly (2013) “Lest We Forget : The Lusitania.” Gare Maritime. (ref: #10962, accessed 27th April 2015 03:24:39 PM) URL :

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