Arthur Vickers (2nd February 1882 to 27th July 1944)


It was 56 years after his death that Arthur “Titch” Vicker’s finally got a headstone on this grave. Here I am stood beside it in Birmingham’s massive cemetery at Witton Cemetery. I had a photo of the headstone but was dismayed to find the cemetery covered 103 acres. To prepare myself for an hour’s walking around I had a coffee and a cheese and onion sandwich in the car. I found the grave quickly though – a bit of luck: I had a photo of the headstone and behind it there was a broad expanse of short grass. From the highest point in the cemetery I could see just one unused patch of grass. I match up the trees in the photo and those before me and bingo - found the grave.


As a youngster Arthur was known as “Midget” as he never grew taller than five feet. He joined the Boer War as it was finishing and served for six years (the war resulted in defeat for the British and the second independence of the South African Republic.) As the First World War commenced he wanted to help and tried to enlist in the army but was turned down six times due to his height. However the Royal Warwickshire Regiment accepted him and aged 33 he found himself fighting the Battle Of Loos in France. This took place from September to October 1915 and is historically known for the first British use of poison gas.


On Saturday 25th September 1915 the 33-year-old Private Arthur was involved in a fight which resulted in heavy losses on both sides. The combined forces of British, French and Belgiums were trying to take over the trenches known as Hulloch Quarry but as they advanced they were mowed down by Germans lying in trenches with machine guns. Arthur and his battalion were told the barbed wire had been cut and they could charge forward but it wasn’t. Machine guns rattled and cut the men down men like a scythe in a field of corn. Arthur ran forward on his own initiative and somehow cut through wire under very heavy shell, rifle and machine-gun fire, allowing the battalion to charge ahead. Though it was daylight and Arthur remained stood up as he cut away he was unharmed. At one point he was cutting wire just 50 yards from the German front line while seeing his comrades cut down all the while. Over 500 men went over the top but only 140 lived to shout their names out at roll call the next day.


Athur received his medal from George V at Buckingham Palace in 1916. He also received the Medaille Medal from the French. After the war he returned home to Birmingham to work at GEC in Witton and even had a job collecting glasses in a pub. He died of stomach cancer and pulmonary tuberculosis at City Hospital, West Heath aged 62. A ceremony took place on 13th November 2000 and the headstone which was funded by Birmingham City Council was unveiled. Representatives of his family attended as did a section of the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers who played the 'Last Post'.


This brave dude seemed to be buried alone here though he’d married aged 40 and they’d had one son (but he only lived for a few weeks.)



Me sat in the car before I went to look for Arthur. I was expecting to be walking along the headstones for an hour or two but got lucky…




Found him…




Arthur is in the middle…