On this day in 1917, Frank Berry (1892-1917) was killed in the Battle of Cambrai in France.
Frank was 25 and a private in the 17th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment when he lost his life in fierce fighting in a heavily bomb-damaged Bourlon Wood in a tank-led offensive.
His death was announced in The Western Times on December 21, 1917.
‘Quite a gloom was cast over this parish by the news of the death of Private Frank Berry, who joined up in May 1916 and went to France the following September,’ reported the newspaper.
A letter was received by the vicar from his officer stating he was killed in action in Bourlon Wood. He was highly esteemed by officers and men.’
Twenty months earlier, Frank was at the centre of a controversial and unsuccessful attempt by his father, Thomas Berry to save him from going to war.
On April 5, 1916, Thomas appealed to the Northern Panel of the Devon Appeal Tribunal against a local tribunal’s refusal to exempt Frank, a horseman, from service.
The tribunal was told that Thomas had three sons and farmed at West Bowden Farm, Knowstone.
He had recently taken on another nearby farm, Luckett and in all farmed 430 acres.
Thomas was asked by a military representative on the appeal tribunal – a Captain Vosper – if one of his three sons would like to serve King and country.
‘No, they don’t want to go’, Thomas replied. When asked why they had attested for military service, he said they were advised to, placing themselves in the Army reserve.
Thomas denied taking on a second farm to keep his sons out of military service. The owner of the land had, he said, pressed him to take it on.
The appeal tribunal chairman asked him: ‘Were you not a little rash to take Luckett, having so little labour at your disposal?’ Thomas told him: ‘Well, I thought I could have done it. I did not think it was going to come to this. And my son might get married.’
It was put to him that he ‘didn’t bother about the war at all – that didn’t enter into your calculation?’ Thomas said: ‘No, I was looking to see if I could make a bit, and to help the boys on.’
Captain Vosper hit out, saying that Thomas’s sons had ‘made no attempt to do anything for their country’.
The tribunal granted exemption for Frank to September 30, 1916. But Frank joined up in May that year and had been in France for more than a year when he was killed.
His body was never recovered. He is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial in France and on Knowstone War Memorial.
Frank was the son of Thomas Berry (1859-1943) and Ann Snow (1855-1919). Thomas was a brother of William Berry (1866-1936) who married Helena Slader (1869-1949) in 1913 in Rackenford. Helena was my great-grandmother.
Knowstone Memorial on which Frank is remembered.