Crossed the Bar

Sitrep 1, Funeral Arrangements.


It is with so much sadness that I pass on a report from Captain Tony Pitt (Plymouth Branch Almoner) that Captain John (Pebbles) Stones RFA(Retd) crossed the bar on Wednesday 16th March January 2016 in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth and after a short illness aged 69. John’s funeral will take place at 11:00 on Friday 8th April at the United Reformed Church Princetown (It is near the Fox Tor Cafe HERE for a map) and all old colleagues and shipmates will be made welcome. This will be followed by a private cremation. After the service attendees are invited to join John’s family for refreshment and will be joined later by Wendy.

Family flowers ony by request but donations in John’s memory if desired should be made to the RNLI Plymouth Branch, HERE for their Website and HERE for a map).

The arrangements for the funeral are being made by Morris Bros of Tavistock, HERE for their Website and HERE for a map)

On behalf of the RFA Association I offer our sincere condolences to Wendy,  their two sons, Jonathon and Simon and Hannah his granddaughter.


If you have any remembrances of Pebbles please email it to me at and I will post them on this page. I am also looking for photographs of Pebbles for this piece and the RFA Association Gallery and Archive, If you have one please email it to me.

Tributes and remembrances:-

Pat Thompson Writes:- I only sailed with John once, back in 1973 in RFA Tidepool, we were both Second Officers and of course after that and as we achieved promotion there was only ever one First/Chief Officer and Captain in a ship so we never got the opportunity to sail together again. We did of course bump into each other many times over the years and I often took the opportunity to visit with John, Wendy and family when in Plymouth. John was quite a “bloke”, apart from his obvious skills as a sailor and his devotion to his family he was a most accomplished artist and narrator of tall tales to children. I think my undying memory of John is of him sat in an armchair in the Officer’s lounge in Tidepool after sunday lunch in port, smothered in young children as he spun them a yarn which he illustrated with sketches drawn as he went along. He is a sad loss to his family and the RFA family as a whole.

Ian Finlayson writes:- I sailed with John (and Pat Thompson) as a first trip engineer cadet on Tidepool. Both contributed greatly to settling me in to the life. Being greatly mystified as to how we found our way around the Indian Ocean I asked John as Navigator how it was done. He invited me to the bridge and began by telling me that I should understand that astral navigation worked on a complete myth that the stars were equal distance from earth and everything after that was completely lost on me.
I sailed with John a couple of times later as we both moved up the ranks, in 1982 we were on Gold Rover and he would wander round the ship on a Sunday afternoon dressed in a blue and white striped Arab style robe and a red fez – I never did find out why. As Captain and CEO of Orangeleaf we worked very well together in the Gulf. Both John and Wendy were great fun and helped entertain my children at times over Christmas. His drawings were a great source of joy, especially when the mince pie and carrot were nibbled and a hoof print appeared outside my cabin on Christmas morning!

We all went to Wild Wadi in Dubai during the Xmas stand off. The first picture is of John come to the finish of the very wild water ride – some of our Marine protection party were there and had been discussing whether to try the ride but, having seen John do it, felt obliged to do it also.

Following that, he took a well earned nap to recover.

My condolences to Wendy and the boys, John was a wonderful man and a great friend.

Ian Finlayson

Steve Rhodes writes:- I first sailed with John when he was a CTO in Regent in 1977-78. It was clear from the first handshake that this was a very special man. He had a wonderful sense of humour, he was brilliantly talented as an artist and had the best people skills I ever encountered. He also proved to be a very caring CTO who took his responsibility for his charges very seriously, while never underestimating that learning had to fun too. I still have the handmade crossing-the-line certificate he did for me and many other members of the ship’s company.
Thirty years after our first trip together I joined Fort Austin where he was in command. The RFA was a much-changed organisation by then, but to his eternal credit, John had survived that change and two promotions without altering his own approach to life. He was still the same down to earth man I first met. His way of running a ship may not always have been what the manual preached yet he was greatly respected by everyone in the ship’s company. Fort Austin maintained a high state of readiness yet he never had to raise his voice to achieve the ship’s aims. His was such a simple philosophy – trust people to get on with it and they will never let you down.

Steve Rhodes (former DSTO(N))

Bill Homer writes:- A fond memory of John Stones.
RFA ORANGELEAF’s Armilla deployment of 2001 was the first of two occasions I had the privilege of serving with John and I often smile at this little occurrence.  HMS LANCASTER was the Armilla Frigate at the time and being a Lancashire man he expressed a desire to own one of their baseball caps.  Not being one to sherk such a request I procured 50% of the stock that was appropriately adorned with scrambled egg, and presented it to him a day or two later during the set up for our first RAS serial with our consort. “ Gunline in hand” was his cue, and donning it, he marched proudly onto the Bridge-wing waving enthusiastically to the CO next door.  At that very moment the wind removed his newly acquired pride and joy and deposited it in the choppy waters astern, instantly turning his look of delight just moments before into one of genuine distress as he watched it disappear in the froth.
We spent many happy hours before breakfast marching around the deck in pursuit of an ENG 1, talking of the day and week ahead, his love of his young  Granddaughter Hannah, his beloved Wendy and of course the poems of Keats that he loved so well.  He was a lovely man, who cared passionately for his family, his profession, his history, art, literature and those (in his words) he had the privilege to command.  There are those who are good at what they do, those who are good in a socially, even some who are good at both.  John was not only the latter but a genuinely good human being to boot.  Many will miss you my friend.

Bill Homer


Taken from the RFAA Facebook page:-

John Gallagher Rip a true gent
Charlie Rogers R.I.P. A dear. Captain
Richard Andrew Price Oh dear, a really nice person
Alexander William Parker Sadly missed
Dale Checksfield Sadly missed, will never forget hitting him in the head with a Hoover at 5am on the bridge of diligence as we stood by the sinking MV Bella I. A gentleman, fine captain and great tutor.
Ian Finlayson Sailed with John (and Pat Thompson) as a first trip cadet on Tidepool. Both contributed greatly to settling me in to the life. I sailed with John a couple of times later as we both moved up the ranks and, as Captain and CEO of Orangeleaf worked very well together in the Gulf. Both John and Wendy were great fun and helped entertain my children at times over Christmas. A very sad day.
Richard Davies Captain Stones gave me my first bridge watch. A wonderful and understanding Captain. I remember he used to leave random books on the bridge to see who would provide comment, a history of toy soldiers was one I recall and after you had dug yourself a ho…See more
Simon Booth A fine man and great sailor, a sad day.
Ross Ferris Really sad. Thoroughly enjoyed sailing on Ft Austin with John as XO when I was Navs and Stuart Cant, 1OX. The only man who could control an over exuberant flight on a night before a no fly Sunday! RIP John and condolences to Wendy and family.
James Ewart Wingrove Such sad news, bagpuss and I had a great trip on Sir Tristram with him as his Navs. A real gent and true seafarer. R.I.P
Craig Gogarty A true Gentleman. R.I.P.
Keith Brown A much respected and well liked shipmate, I found him a great human being to work with and for RIP Capn John “R” HD
Brian Collins Sad day Really good Captain . RIP Condolences to family