Gary Miller Songs

"As a song poet there are few in the world today to match him"
Green Man Review, USA


Ballad of Lance-Sergeant William Stones



My name is Joseph William Stones

The life-blood of Durham ran deep in my bones

A miner from Crook standing all of 5' 2"

Deemed too short to fight, fit only to hew

But I then joined the Bantams in 1915

A volunteer in the Durham Light Infantry

A lance-sergeant decorated for extreme bravery

Shot at dawn as a coward in 1917

The terror of the guns I bravely defied

The horrors of the trenches I somehow survived

Only to face death by a different name

Stripped of all honour, butchered in shame

Though my superiors cast glowing testimonies

I was guilty as charged, my Court Martial decreed

British Army justice, so cruel and so vague

The brutal tyranny of Bloody Butcher Haig

As the sentence was passed my stomach turned weak

But they’d given me no permission to speak

I simply stood there as my glazed eyes gazed through

The blank faces of my judges who no mercy knew

The ambulance driver’s head hung in shame

Driving us to our doom at the dawn of the day

Blindfolded, manacled, two lance corporals and I

Each tied to a post, sentenced to die

A farmyard near Arras, the last place I saw

So quiet and peaceful amid the horrors of war

Thirty-six bullets and thirty-six men

Twelve for each prisoner, how could they fail then?

Yet not one of those men fired a shot that rang true

Afraid of guilt’s burden, what else could they do?

As the firing squad officer his pistol he drew

And our brains and our souls to eternity blew

“Braver men I never have met”

Were the words of the chaplain who wrote with regret

How he’d prayed with us before that fatal dawn

And how we were murdered on that terrible morn

There were no birds to sing, no bugle to play

The Last Post as they carried our bodies away

Just a sad mournful breeze to usher our souls

To the Great Unknown, where no guilty bell tolls

Oh Lizzie, my Lizzie, you were victimised too

"There’s no pensions for coward’s widows", they told you

As they left you to rot and go quietly insane

Alone with your memories, your loss and your pain

Three hundred and five others were damned just like me

To walk the Ghost Road through eternity

These doomed youth an anthem and peace were denied

Unjustly condemned, shot by their own side

My name was erased from the family line

To be rediscovered and restored after time

Now eighty years after I was slaughtered in shame

The local memorial at last bears my name

A Royal Pardon was granted at last

Ninety years after the sentence was passed

And even though the conviction remains

I suppose we must welcome any small gains

Now they call it Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

A cause that in my time was simply unknown

And though no-one else should suffer like me

From the evil of War we will never be free

(Gary Miller)

© 2017 Whippet Records

Copyright Control MCPSPRS

Illustration by Helen Temperley © 2018



The true story of Joseph William Stones.

Written in October 2017, when Gary was approached and commissioned by the DLI Research and Study Centre to contribute a series of songs about the music of The Durham Infantry for 'When the Bugle Calls', a DLI Collection touring exhibition.

The song was recorded as part of Gary's 'From Coalfield to Battlefield' project, which developed directly through the exhibition and was one of four songs from the project to be performed at the 'When the Bugle Calls' launch event at Bishop Auckland Town Hall on 5th December 2017. 

Also as part of these respective linked projects, Gary's creative partner, artist, designer and illustrator Helen Temperley produced an illustration to accompany the song (see above image).

Other songs from the project 'From Coalfield to Battlefield' include : -'Euphonium and Cornet''The Durham Light Infantry', 'The Final Letter of Jimmy Durham''Miss Nightingale's Man'.


Releases (on Whippet Records unless otherwise stated)


Video Clips

Official Promotional Video for 'Ballad of Lance-Sergeant William Stones'.

Gary performing 'Ballad of Lance-Sergeant William Stones'
live at The Cockpit, Pickering, North Yorkshire, England,
on 15th August 2019.

Gary performing 'Ballad of Lance-Sergeant William Stones'
live at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, County Durham, on 5th December 2017.


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