Henry Berry, more
commonly known as Harry by friends and family was born in
on January 8th 1883 the youngest child to his parents James and
Hannah. After attending St Marks School at the outbreak of the Boer War the
enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment, despite the fact that at sixteen he
was too young to be engaged in active service. As an alternative he was posted
to the 4th Militia Volunteers who customarily remained within the
borders of the United Kingdom, although this tradition aside when asked to serve
on St Helena guarding Boer prisoners of war the entre battalion duly volunteered
and departed for the South Atlantic on board the RMS Goth in January 1900
arriving ready for garrison duties on the 21st April of that year.
Although life on
may have been somewhat less exciting than popular opinion of the time suggested
it did allow plenty of opportunity for organized sports. It is likely that it
was at this time that Berry had his first introduction to, and discovered that
he had a talent for, both Rugby and Hockey, although it was to be the former
that became a passion in his life. At the end of the Boer War in 1902 the 4th
Militia received orders to return home to their more customary duties. Having
recently received the Queens Medal for his service in the conflict and by now of
age Berry decided to make a career of military life and transferred to the 1st
Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment moving with his new unit to both
Ceylon and India, serving at various times over the next seven years in
Trincomalee, Lucknow, Umballa, Lahore, Dalhousie and Bombay.
Whilst with the
continued to play rugby as he moved around the Asian sub continent, captaining
the ‘D’ Company rugby team for five seasons during which time they remained
unbeaten. His time with the Battalion was cut prematurely short, however, in
1909 when he contracted malaria and after his repatriation he left the Army
and civilian life.
soon reestablished his love for rugby joining the
club at Kingsholm almost as soon as he returned. Originally a three quarter his
new club saw him in a different light and soon converted him into a forward.
This transformation obviously suited
as he was soon selected for Gloucestershire and was a reserve for
during the 1909 season. Greater honors were to follow.
January of 1910
was to prove a busy month for
as he married Beatrice Arnold at St Catherine’s Church in
was by now a publican and together they would run the Red Lion and later the
Stag’s Head in
’s home town.
would also find time that January to pay a visit to Twickenham on the 15th
for a double first of both his debut cap against
, which was also to be the first international played at the new stadium. In a
closely matched game, blighted in part by persistent rain that turned parts of
the new pitch into a sea of mud,
generally deserved their hard fought victory winning by six points to three,
their first victory over
since 1898. Bolstered by
’s display as a thinking forward who was fleet of foot the
selectors retained his services for the following match as well as the rest of
the international season.
's next opponents were to be
in a match also to be held at Twickenham on February 12th. Played in
front of the Prince of Wales and his guest Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein
it proved to be a poor match that resulted in a scoreless draw.
were generally regarded as being fortunate to hold on for this result as
had the better of the play. The following month saw
travelling with the team to
at the Parc de Princes on March 3rd. This provided a far better
English performance with
distinguishing himself with a debut try for his country ten minutes after
kickoff during the English teams eleven points to three victory. This left just
one remaining encounter for the 1910 international season and two weeks later
again travelled, this time to Inverleith, to take on
on March 19th in the Calcutta Cup match.
proved to be the better side in the first half and it was not until the second
period of play that
started to assert themselves. The English pack, including
who again crossed the line to score, played far better than expected gaining
praise in the following match reports.
himself was described as having provided splendid support for his captain R.
Dibble in a match that England eventually won by fourteen points to five.
season was over with
securing their first title since 1892, and missing out on a first ever grand
slam only due to the draw with
. Despite his strong season in a white shirt for whatever reason the
selectors decided not to favor
again. He returned to
where married life continued, his first child Harry George being born in August
still played a major part in his life. In the 1910 season he played for the
Gloucestershire side that won the county championship and he remained a valued
member of the
club until 1913.
Still in the Army
was recalled to the colors with the outbreak of war in August 1914. Initially
posted to the third reserve battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment he was
sent to guard the Woolwich Arsenal and the Thames Forts.
soon returned to the first battalion where he had spent so many years as a
young man and was soon posted to active duty arriving in
in February 1915 with the rank of corporal. Back in
’s second child Phyllis Irene was born on April 14th. Although
chose her middle name he was destined never to see her. The following month saw
the Gloucestershire regiment, along with fifteen others, preparing for the
second Battle of Artois, more commonly known as the Battle of Aubers Ridge.
Sensing the Germans strategy of keeping a defensive posture in the west whilst
moving troops to the Eastern front and secure victory against Russia whilst also
recognizing the need to support the French decision to launch a quick attack to
capitalize upon this a British plan was rapidly drawn up to utilize a pincer
attack against the German forces around Neuve Chapelle. Few definite objectives
were set beyond this with individual units encouraged to press on across the
flat terrain as far as possible. The battle plan was flawed in many ways.
Intelligence was poor. There was very little surprise to the British tactics
meaning that the Germans were well prepared. The short tactical bombardment used
as a precursor to attack was ineffective with the artillery also being in poor
repair and short of ammunition. The British trenches were poorly laid out making
the movement of reinforcements difficult, although these were in short supply
with ongoing action also in progress both
and Gallipoli. Conversely the Germans had plenty of time to improve their
defenses dramatically, a fact missed by the British intelligence Officers. As
part of the Southern side of the pincer, and despite already heavy losses
and the first
’s went over the top at four o’clock in the afternoon on May 9th
1915. They were met by withering machine gun fire from the well prepared
Germans. The battle would prove to be an unmitigated disaster for the British.
No ground was won and no positive effect on the French attacks held concurrently
to the North could be seen. During their attack the
’s lost two hundred and sixty two men. Henry Berry was one of them. His body
was never recovered.
Complete Who's Who of England Rugby Union Internationals", R Maule,
Times Online Digital Archive