Name: Eric William Lafone
DoB: April 19 1896
Regt: Temp. 2nd Lieut,, 12th Durham L.I., Sept., 1914; Capt., 1918; despatches; M.C.; Croix-de-Guerre, France,
DoD: Killed in action in, Italy, June 22, 1918.
Academic Career: CGS 1905 – 1906; Repton School 1910; Trinity College, Cambridge.
Eric William was the eldest son of Henry Pownall Malins Lafone and Gertrude née Broadbent. He was born on April 19 1896 in Southsea Hampshire. In the 1901 census he was aged four years and living in Ambleside where his father was Vicar. He had two younger sisters, Doris Gertrude (1897-1931) and Kathleen Mary (1902-1997) two brothers, Arthur Henry (1898-1977) and Geoffrey Broadbent (1900 – 1975). His mother died in 1905 and his father married Marion Russell in 1907.Their sons Kenneth Russell, and James Henry, born in 1911 and 1913 respectively. Kenneth died in 1912 but James lived until 1976.
When he was at school in Carlisle, the family was living at St. Cuthbert’s Vicarage as his father was Vicar there. He was Vicar of Kendal in 1909.
By the time of the Great War the family had moved to Barrow-in-Furness where his father was Archdeacon. Eric’s father later became Vicar of Cartmel (1919) while remaining Archdeacon; then in 1923 he was made Vicar of Kendal and Archdeacon of Westmorland. After his retirement in 1931 he was made Archdeacon Emeritus. He lived at Hylands, Kendal and became a JP in 1934. He died in 1955.
The information contained on this site is courtesy of Sue Sayers who wrote a book about this remarkable family. Eric’s Uncle Alexander Malins Lafone won the Victoria Cross. Eric’s Father was an Archdeacon and his Grandfather Henry amongst other things was a confederate agent working out of Liverpool then ran Butlers Wharf during the dock strike. There is a Lafone Street in London.
He was educated at Repton and entered Trinity College, Cambridge.
After school Eric went to Cambridge and later joined the Durham Light Infantry. Not long after, his father the Archdeacon Lafone of Barrow-in-Furness received a telegram on the 22nd July 1916 “Regret to inform you that Lt. E.W.Lafone Durham Light Infantry was admitted 14 General Hospital Wimereaux July 19th with gunshot wound and compound fracture of the left arm. Severe, further reports”
Eric received La Croix De Guerre the French Medal in 1917 for his bravery on July 17 1916 at Pozieres France. Eric recovered from his injuries and returned to his regiment as Captain, fighting in Asiago Italy. It was here in 1918 that he was killed.
The following are reports about his death.
From The London Gazetteer dated 17th September 1917
Temporary.Capt.Eric William Lafone, Durham Light Infantry.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, when commanding his company during an attack. He kept them well together under exceptionally trying conditions, when they were suffering heavily from our own guns, but by skilful leading he was able to shift his position and lessen the casualties, afterwards gaining the final objective. His untiring efforts were mainly responsible for the ultimate success of the operation.
A newspaper article in the Uruguay Weekly News dated the 22nd December 1918 reported the circumstances of his death. Captain Eric Lafone went out with a machine gun beyond the wires when the Austrians were pressing a trench to the left. He seems to have mown them down until wounded on the head by a piece of shrapnel. Three men then wanted to fetch him in, but he replied “Get in yourselves and take the gun, I can crawl in”. While doing so he was caught by a sniper and killed.
His Colonel wrote to the Archdeacon Lafone conveying to him the sympathy of every officer and man in his Battalion on the death of his son, who was killed in the early stages of an Austrian attack. He said “ I have looked upon your son as my right hand man and recently I put his name forward for a Majority, in the hope of soon making him my second in command. One of the bravest men I have ever met, he was equally loyal to his C.O. and his men. No scheming private could get round him, but he would do anything to serve his men and he was absolutely just: these are his characteristics which never fail to win the hearts of British soldiers, and there is nothing better worth winning. I know the Brigadier and G.O.C. Division share my views. I told him “Lafone is as brave as two tigers” to which he replied “Yes and as gentle as two women”. Your boy was a gallant officer because he was a typical gentleman. The sympathy of a stranger can be of no value to you, but the love and respect of 800 brave men has a value. He will be buried tonight in the British Military Cemetery and will lie, as a soldier should beside the men he led and loved. My pioneers are making a cross to mark his grave. I have lost a comrade who might have been my son, but who was in fact my companion in joys and my ready help in troubles”.
Another letter written to the archdeacon from Cuthbert Vaux second in command to Eric reads—When I was wounded Eric was the first person to find and dig me out. On many occasions when shells have burnt in out section I have seen him rush out of the dugout and help wounded men out of trouble. The gallant manner in which he has behaved in the many attacks in which he has taken part. The men loved him and knew that they were safe when under his command. Another incident occurred on the Asiago Plateau Eric took out a reconoitery patrol of half a dozen men when suddenly a party of some 50 Austrians charged them. Most people would have turned and run but he got his six men down and opened fire at them and broke the group up. This is only one of the many incidents that go to prove his extraordinary character.
Private Farrington, Eric’s servant for the three months prior to his death took all his belongings and handed them to the orderly room to be returned to the next of kin.
Captain Eric Lafone was mentioned in a Despatch from General Plumer dated 18th April 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross.
Eric was buried in Granezza British Cemetery Asiago Italy; his grave was marked by a durable wooden cross with an inscription plot 2 row D grave 7.
Rudyard Kipling wrote a story entitled “The Village that voted the Earth was Flat” in 1913 in it he wrote about his friend Lafone a son of a clergyman with a dynamic personality. Could this possibly be Eric?
a) Carlisle School Memorial Register 1264-1924
b) Census: ;1901 RG13/4907;
c) Sue Sayers
d) Cheltenham Ladies College