Born: Established: 1903 Oldbury ; Died: 18 Jul 1985 Perth
Bert Vickers was born into an English working-class family, and left school at an early age, later gaining a trade qualification as a fitter and turner. He arrived in Western Australia in 1925, and worked for a number of years as a rural labourer, rouseabout and wool-classer, before turning to poultry farming. During the Second World War, he enlisted and served with the AIF in the Middle East. Following recall to Australia, he was severely injured in an accident, and then spent a lengthy period in Northam Military Hospital, where with the encouragement of Army Education officers, including Alan Marshall (q. v.), he completed a course in freelance journalism, and started contributing items to the Army Education journal SALT, The Western Mail, and also the ABC.
After the war Vickers returned to poultry farming, and continued writing in his spare time. He initially gained a level of success with the manuscript versions of his novels The Mirage, which received a favourable commendation in the Sydney Morning Herald Literary Competition in 1946, and First Place to the Stranger, which gained equal third place in the same competition in 1948. However, due to their controversial elements, neither work attracted the interest of publishers at the time, and it was not until the eventual publication of The Mirage (1955), which was notable for its sympathetic portrayal of Aboriginal people, that he gained wider recognition as a writer. During the Cold War years, given his anti-war activism, and friendship with writers such as Katharine Susannah Prichard (q. v.), Vickers was targeted for his alleged communist leanings, and at one point an attempt was even made to have him expelled from the Poultry Farmers' Association on the presumption that he was a member of the Communist Party. His experiences during this period became the inspiration for his novel Though Poppies Grow (1958). In the 1950s and 1960s he travelled overseas on a number of occasions, and in 1965 was invited to attend an International Congress of Writers held at Weimar, in East Germany, when he also visited the Soviet Union.
Vickers had a long and continuing association with the literary journal Overland, and in 1971 he was elected an Honorary Life Member of the West Australian branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers.