John Edward Berry is my third cousin, thrice removed. He was born circa 1897 in Gawber, Barnsley and according to the 1901 Census, lived in the Wood Vale area of Dodsworth, Barnsley. Special thanks are owed to Trevor Higgins for writing the following text:-
John was a member of the 2/4th Duke of Wellingtons Regiment attached to the 62nd Division, who was attached to the attacking force intending to break through the Hindenburgh Line, positioned on the northern Somme near Cambrai. General Byng’s intention was to ’smash’ the line along a front extending for 12 miles. German intelligence, which was considered very good by all Allied Commanders, were fully aware of the impending offensive, and were prepared. Over 300 British tanks were deployed to assist the infantry. One of the infantry commanders refused to allow his troops to walk closely behind the tanks, thinking they would be killed as artillery targeted the tanks. His troops walked about 150 yards behind the tanks, and were quickly cut down by machine gun fire. The use of tanks was not a success, and by the end of the second day most were out commission.
The offensive commenced at 8pm on the 20th November, and the first 24 hours, the 62nd made good progress, taking the villages of Havrincourt and Graincourt, a distance of 5 miles behind the German line. On the second day they were halted near to Bourlon Ridge and dug in.
On the 22nd, the 62nd launched an attack on Bourlon Wood. The Germans had taken advantage of the British digging in on the ridge, and had reinforced their troops within the wood. Fighting was fierce, and the 62nd found it impossible to enter the wood. Some 4000 casualties were sustained, 180 tanks were out commission and the British were halted. By the 7th December all British gains had been lost except for a small area near Havrincourt. British losses in total exceeded 45.000.
John died on the 22nd, no doubt in the attacks on Bourlon Ridge or the Wood. The Roquigny-Equancourt Road Cemetery is situated 5 klms south of Havrincourt midway between the two villages after which it is named. The burials are of soldiers treated at Ytres CCS (4 klms south of Havrincourt). There are 1838 commonwealth burials within the Cemetery.
This is a revised version of a post which was originally published on my WordPress Blog on 30/12/2009 and republished on Mollekin Portalite on 10/05/2011. Special thanks are also owed to Trevor Wood for donating the photo of John for this post.