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Thiepval Memorial, France Thiepval Memorial, France
First Name: John Last Name: BERRY
Date of Death: 16/08/1916 Lived/Born In: Childs Hill
Rank: Private Unit: East Surrey9
Memorial Site: Thiepval Memorial, France

Current Information:

Age-29

Granville Road, Childs Hill

Born-Kilburn

 

The Battle of the Somme (July-November, 1916)

By the beginning of August the Battle of the Somme had been raging for a full month. Thousands of men had already been killed or wounded or were simply missing, never to be seen again and and just a few square miles of the French countryside, all in the southern part of the battlefield, had been captured from the enemy. Mistakes had been made by the various commanders and would be continued to be made but there was no turning back as the British, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders and Canadians carried on battering away at the German defences in the hope of a breakthrough, So it continued all the way through to November with nearly every battalion and division then in France being drawn into it at some stage. In the end the German trenches had been pushed back a few more miles along most of the line but the cost in lives had been staggering. By the end of the fighting in November, 1916, British Army casualties numbered over 400,000, killed, wounded and missing.

24th Division arrived on the Somme during the last week of July, 1916. 9th East Surrey of 72 Brigade were kept busy training behind the line at Morlancourt and Meaulte until ordered up to reserve trenches about a mile south-west of Guillemont and a mile north-east of Carnoy on 10th August.  On 16th August, 9th East Surrey attacked a German strongpoint just south of the Trones Wood-Guillemont track. This attack was a complete failure and very costly as well. Among other factors, the Battalion Diary lays the blame for failure on the artillery preparation which was inadequate and in some instances did not take place. The strongpoint itself was a solidly constructed, concrete dug-out surrounded by a well built trench with a sunken road, full of barbed wire in front of it. At 5.40pm, after a half hour artillery bombardment, 9th East Surrey assaulted the position in three waves of 80 men. The first two waves were met by a wall of rifle fire and a storm of bombs (grenades) and very few survived let alone got into the German positions. The third wave was sent in but they fared no better. Survivors took cover in shell holes and after dark crawled back to their own lines. 9th East Surrey sustained nearly 200 casualties during this operation one of whom was John Berry.

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