Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Arthur John Berry

Arthur John Berry : Photograph of Arthur by kind permission of Mr Tony Walker

Photograph of Arthur by kind permission of Mr Tony Walker

Arthur John Berry : (L to R) Military Medal; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Military Medal; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Arthur was born on the 18th February 1896 in Knutsford, Cheshire. His father was called John and his mother was Ellen Eliza. He had two older siblings: Frederick and Emily, and two younger: Georgina and Ellen.

In 1901 the family were living in Concrete Terrace in Knutsford and John was working as a railway porter. Arthur went to Egerton School in the town and spent some time in the Church Lad's Brigade, which tells us he was a member of the Church of England.

By 1911 the family had moved to 8 Green Street, but Arthur was no longer living with them. He was working as a Hall Boy at Toft Hall on the outskirts of Knutsford. This house dated from the late 17th Century and was owned by the Leycester family. Rafe Oswald Leycester was the owner while Arthur was working there.

Arthur enlisted in the Army on the 1st March 1915, 7 months after the outbreak of the First World War. He joined the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment based at Stretford Road in Hulme and was given the service number 3378. The 6th Battalion had gone overseas in September 1914, so a second 6th battalion was being formed (2/6th). Arthur however was sent to join the 1/6th Battalion, which had taken heavy casualties fighting the Turks in Gallipoli. He went overseas on the 3rd October 1915 and arrived in Gallipoli on the 24th.

We don't know what Arthur did in Gallipoli. The 1/6th Battalion left there for Egypt on the 31st December. While he was in Egypt Arthur was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 24th February 1916 and to Corporal on the 1st September.

At some point during his time in Egypt Arthur received a letter from his sister Ellen. He was very pleased to hear from her, and wrote back. He told her that he and his comrades lived 'in a palm grove...great clusters of dates hang from the palm but they are not yet ripe and they are 'forbidden fruit' to us'. They had 'a pet airman who comes over here morning and night, dropping bombs about a mile from us. Don't know as he does much damage'.

Ellen, who was around 13 at the time, must have suggested sending things that he might need, because Arthur told her that 'a raincoat would be useless out here'. He also told her that 'I realize more each time that there is nowhere to beat old Blighty and there are some lovely bits just round old K' (Knutsford, we believe).

On the 1st March 1917 the 1/6th Battalion was sent to France. At around the same time soldiers serving in units of the Territorial Force were given new service numbers. The 6th Battalion was allocated the range 250001 to 275000. Arthur's new number was 250959.

Arthur was promoted to Sergeant on the 6th May 1917. He was a well liked soldier and a respected leader. He stayed with the 1/6th Battalion into 1918, as a member of A Company, and in March they were stationed near Bihoucourt and Bucquoy in France. On the 23rd the German Army began a large offensive intended to win the war before large numbers of American soldiers could join in the fighting against them.

On the 25th Arthur carried out a feat of great bravery. A Company were attacking the Germans, but all their officers had been killed or wounded. It was reported in the Knutsford Guardian that 'He at once took command and won through a difficult situation'. For this Arthur was awarded the Military Medal. His award was published in the London Gazette on the 27th June, but he was awarded the medal in early April.

Arthur's parents had heard a rumour that he was to be awarded the medal, and wrote to him asking if this was true. He replied saying that it was, and that he had been presented with it. He added that there were thousands of others who ought to have it. This letter was received by his parents on Saturday the 27th April, but by that time Arthur was no longer alive.

Arthur had died on St George's Day, the 23rd. He was a member of a patrol returning to the British trenches when a hand grenade (known as a bomb) went off accidentally, killing him instantly. He was 23 years old.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Blatherwick had spent almost the entire war with the 1/6th Battalion. Although he was not serving with them when Arthur died he knew the Berry family so he decided to write to them. His letter was received the day after Arthur's last note. He told them that Arthur was 'always cheery, always willing, always honest... he was proving himself a most capable leader of men'. 'His loss in the regiment will be greatly felt and all will miss him terribly'. (Thomas' medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection).

Arthur was buried in Couin Cemetery by Chaplain Fletcher of the 42nd Division on the 24th April. The Chaplain wrote to John and Ellen telling them that his coffin had been covered with the Union Jack, 'the flag he had died to defend'.

After the end of the war some British cemeteries were renamed. Arthur lies in what is now Couin New British Cemetery along with 360 other soldiers. His modern grave reference is C.36. .

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council