Private 4823, 20th Battalion Royal Fusiliers
Died of wounds 23rd July 1916, age 24.
St Sever Cemetery, Rouen.
Student of engineering.
Stephen was born on 13th August 1891 in Windermere where his father was an Inspector of Schools in the Lake District. Following his father’s death, Stephen attended Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon. Keen to become an Engineer, he spent a year at the Hill’s Works at Sheffield before being accepted onto the Engineering Course at Victoria Manchester University. Stephen joined Hulme Hall mid-way through the year in January 1912. Stephen was known to have an unassuming, friendly nature that endeared him to his fellow students at Hulme Hall. He spent the summer vacations stoking on tramp ships and liners going to and from America. A keen rugby player, Stephen had broken into the University Rugby 1st XV by the 1913/14 season. He also played in a friendly against the Canadian National Team.
Stephen enlisted with the 3rd Public School Battalion (PSB) of the University & Public Schools (UPS) Brigade in Manchester in September 1914. The 3rd PSB were later attached to the Royal Fusiliers, becoming the 20th Battalion of the Regiment. Stephen successfully completed basic training in the South East of England and was assigned as a machine gunner. After Stephen’s death, his Aunt wrote to the Hulme Hall Warden, the Rev T. Nicklin, saying; “He joined the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers as a private and was very about soldiering, keeping his gun and accoutrements in excellent order. He used to work the machine gun of D Company and was very keen about it.”
Stephen and the Battalion had to wait for over a year before they were considered ready to fight, being mobilised to the Western Front in November 1915. Arriving in France on 14 November as part of 33rd Division, within a week the Battalion were moved to Bethune, near Lens, to work alongside Battalions of the Scottish Rifles and Argyle & Sutherland Highlanders, gaining experience operating on the front-line. By December they were considered fully operational and ready to man trenches on their own. For the next seven months Stephen and the Battalion settled down into a steady routine of rotating through the front line, support and reserves trenches with other Battalions in their Division, as well as spending time in training and rest camps. Danger and death were always lurking however, and the War Diaries record that casualties were suffered at a steady rate.
At the start of the Somme Offensive in July 1916, the Battalion were operating near Lens. With casualties being much higher and progress much slow than expected, the Division were brought in to provide support, arriving in the region on 10th July. Ten days later, in the early hours of 20th July the Battalion took part in an unsuccessful attack on High Wood. Attempting to surprise the enemy by using a creeping barrage as cover, the Battalion were eventually exposed and cut down, suffering 386 casualties. Stephen was badly wounded during the attack, eventually being evacuated to No.1 Australian General Hospital near Rouen where he succumbed to his injuries and died three days later.
Caroline Fischer, Stephen’s aunt wrote in October 1916 about how “After his death, Stephen’s mother had such nice letters from his comrades talking of his straightforwardness, unselfishness and bravery. The Sergeant wrote for all the officers were killed.”