Born on 9 October 1895, in Hunslet, Leeds, Stephen would be raised in a thoroughly middle class environment. His parents were Joseph and Annie. Joseph is understood to have originated from the Stockport area and returned to become headmaster of Great Moor School. They are known to have had several other children – Annie, Clara, James, Joseph and Mary.
Stephen was educated at his father’s school then at Stockport Grammar School and, later, at Owen’s College (not yet part of Manchester University). In 1912/13, he had passed the Intermediate entrance examination for the civil service but had not taken up a position when War was declared the following year. In his spare time he was the assistant scoutmaster of the 3rd Stockport Troop, at St George’s Church. However, he and the other members of the family worshipped at St Thomas’, Norbury.
When War was declared in August 1914, Stephen was quick to enlist and, as with many of his background, was quickly selected to become an officer. His application was dated 13 August and, within a month, 2nd Lieutenant Vickers was posted to the newly formed 11th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.
On 28 April 1916, he was wounded in the neck and head whilst on duty near the French village of Neuville St Vaast. After receiving treatment at a field hospital, he was evacuated back to the UK on 8 May, travelling between Calais and Dover aboard the SS Brighton. His wounds were not too serious and a medical board declared him fully recovered by the end of August. On 10 September, he wrote to the War Office. “I beg to make a claim for an “Indemnity for Wounds”. While on duty in the front line trenches of Neuville St Vaast, on the morning of April 28th 1916, I was hit by a German sniper. The bullet penetrated my steel helmet causing a scalp wound and was deflected by the reverse inside position of the helmet downward into the rear of my neck. The bullet had splintered and I was operated on at the CCS, Aubigny [CCS – Casualty Clearing Station – field hospital] on April 30th 1916 when most of the pieces were removed, though subsequent photographs show that metallic fragments still remain in my neck.”
His service file, at the National Archives, shows that whilst still on sick leave, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps on 4 July and, on 1 January 1917, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. He trained as night flying pilot and went overseas again in July 1917 with a newly formed squadron of bombers. He is understood to have flown 75 bombing raids.
In the early part of 1918, his actions were recognised by the award of the Military Cross. The citation, published in the London Gazette on 21 June 1918, reads “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has taken part on 53 night bombing raids on enemy aerodromes, billets and communications, flying at times in most unfavourable weather and in the face of intense rifle and machine gun fire. One two occasions, he made three flights in one night, reaching his objective on each occasion and doing considerable damage with direct hits. He has set a splendid example of courage and determination to the rest of his squadron.”
Within few weeks, the King’s Birthday Honours List was published and, for the first time, awards for the newly created Distinguished Flying Cross were made and Stephen was amongst the recipients. Shortly after this, he was posted home as a relief from the stresses of flying duties and was posted to 200 Squadron, a training unit near Lincoln. In the February, he became ill and died from pneumonia at Northern General Hospital, Lincoln.
Further information about Stephen, including a photograph, can be found in the book “Hazel grove to Armageddon” by John Eaton.