Private John William Berry
10150 11th Royal Fusiliers
Killed in Action 10th February 1917, aged 19
Lived in Burnley
Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France
Burnley Express 21st February 1917 - 21st February 1917 -7th April 1917 -7th April 1917 -7th April 1917 -7th April 1917

Burnley Minister’s Son Missing after Action on February 10th (Burnley News Feb 1917 )

The Rev. R. W. Berry, B.D., minister of Hollingreave Congregational Church, Burnley, has learned that his elder son, Private John Wm. Berry, is missing. The news was contained in the following letter from Private Berry’s officer;-

“It is with deepest sympathy that I have to report to you that your son is reported missing after an action that took place on February 10th. There is every possible chance he has been taken prisoner. Directly I get some definite information, I will let you know immediately. His loss to me cannot be expressed in words. He was well-liked, in fact loved, by all the fellows who knew him.- Leater W. Evans, 2nd Lieutenant.”

Private Berry, who is 19 years of age, enlisted early in 1915. He went out to France on August 10th of that year. He left Silcoats School prior to enlisting, and immediately after taking the Cambridge Senior examination he joined the Public School Battalion. Private Berry fought through all the later stages of the Somme offensive.

“Berry Boy” Burnley Pastor’s Son Killed
Chum’s Affecting Tribute to a Courageous Soldier (Burnley News April 1917 )

Formerly reported missing, Pte John W Berry, elder son of the rev R W Berry BD, pastor of Hollingreave Congregational Church, Burnley, is now stated to be dead. It was on Saturday, February 17th, that Mr and Mrs Berry were informed that their son, who was in the Royal Fusiliers, was missing. It was then stated by the officer who wrote the letter that there was every chance Pte. Berry had been taken prisoner. Now, however, comes news which confirms the worst fears. The deceased young man had a promising educational career. He was at Silcoats School, near Wakefield, about seven years. In November 1915, a month before his 18th birthday, he sat for the Senior Cambridge Examination. So enthusiastic was he for active service that as soon as the examination was over, and before the result was received, he enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. He went on to Oxford for his first training, and later to Edinburgh. He learned that he had passed the Senior Cambridge. Having decided to follow a medical career, he would subsequently had circumstances been different, have entered at Manchester University. At the time he enlisted, his father was a chaplain in France. In August 1916, Pte Berry was home on his last leave. He left on the 10th of that month to rejoin his battalion, and within 24 hours he was placed on a draft for France. In the six months which intervened between then and his death, he experienced strenuous fighting, and had some narrow escapes. Once he was in a party of three who missed the way to their trench in the darkness, and were exposed to the enemy’s fire until eventually got back to safety. Only 19 years of age Pte Berry was of a bright, attractive disposition. At Silcoates School he was an enthusiast for sports, including cricket and football. A letter which Mr and Mrs Berry received on Tuesday from Corporal Choat, told that their son had been found, and that he had been buried by his own battalion. On Thursday morning a letter came from Pte Hicks, who was a friend of Pte Berry. Pte Hicks, the only survivor of the action, had himself been wounded and his incapacity to his right hand prevented him from writing earlier. In his letter he writes:

“I should like to tell you how much I liked and admired your boy. Although I am a few years his senior, we were very close chums. I think we gave one another confidence and courage, so to speak. We were usually together when in the line. He was always cool and confident. I shall tell you a few particulars of that miserable affair. For the first time we were not together. There was to be a raid on the enemy’s strong point. The strong point was captured, but the enemy strongly counter-attacked, and I and others were sent up to repel an attack. While lying on the parapet, I heard your son’s voice calling for bombs. Soon after, a “Verney “ light was sent up, and I saw next to me “Berry boy”, as we always called him. I recognised him by the large green scarf that he wore about his neck and head. It was a cold night and he always wore it when in the line. There was no time to speak then. And then we advanced a little. I lost all trace of him, and soon afterwards left this place with an officer. On my return to the battalion I heard that he had been found. I am glad to say that his death was a clean and instantaneous one. It was, I am told, a bullet in the temple. You will be pleased to know that he has been properly buried by men of his battalion. It is impossible to tell you how much I miss him, as we were nearly always together, and have had some amusing and dangerous adventures together. Only once have I seen him depressed, and that was one night when we were both mentally and physically exhausted. Perhaps he has told you about that night, the night we slept in a motor lorry by the road side. I have been trying to get in touch with the chaplain we were acquainted with, but I have not seen him for some considerable time. You will be pleased to know that he died with courage, and in the faith that gives courage. I am the last man left in this section, so you can guess how much alone I am, and how much I miss him. I shall be pleased to answer or obtain answers to any questions you care to write me. Please convey to Mrs Berry my very deepest sympathy. If ever I return to England, I shall be glad to give you particulars of the neighbourhood of the grave. I now must close. In sympathy, yours, Robert Hicks.”





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