Arthur and Norman Vickers were both born in the Ardwick district of Manchester. Arthur was born in 1892 and Norman in the late summer of 1894. Their parents were James and Hannah and they had an older sister, Bertha. Hannah had died on 10 December 1911 and, by the time of the Great War, the family had moved to 12 Vale Road, Reddish.
On 30 August 1914, with the War less than a month old, Norman enlisted into the army at Manchester and was assigned to the Rifle Corps. He went overseas on active service on 26 January 1915 and was attached to the Corps’ 3rd Battalion. This was a regular army battalion which had returned from India and joined the fighting on the Western Front in the middle of December.
His first experience of major action will have been at the Battle of St Eloi in the middle of March when there was fierce resistance to a German attack. A month later, Norman was involved in the fighting at the Second Battle of Ypres when poison gas was used for the first time in war. He was badly affected by the gas and spent six weeks in a military hospital at Rouen before being invalided home to the Northumberland War Hospital at Newcastle. When he was fit enough to be discharged he was given two week sick leave before he returned to the front of 20 July. It will have been on his return that he was transferred to the 8th Battalion which will have in greater need of replacement troops.
On 1 August, the Battalion was in reserve and the men attended church parade. The next day, they had baths at Poperinghe and, at 8pm, left camp to go back into the front line, relieving the 9th Battalion, Rifle Brigade. The Battalion’s War Diary contains scant details of this tour of duty noting that, during the week in the trenches, “A” Company suffered the most casualties. There were no attacks undertaken by either side during this time, so it can be assumed that Norman was killed by shellfire. He would have been 21 on 28 August.
In due course, a letter from the War Office will have come to Vale Road to tell his parents of his death. They will still have been grieving when, at the end of October, the postman called again to tell them that Arthur had also been killed.
When the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information in the early 1920s, Mr & Mrs Vickers had moved to 28 Sandown Street, Abbey hey, Gorton.