L/Cpl. E.W. BERRY
"To live in the hearts
FIRST NAMES: Eric William
RANK: Lance Corporal
UNIT: 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Regiment
DOB:11th April 1922
MARITAL STATUS: Single
OCCUPATION: Apprentice Electrician
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 1940
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 6th June 1944
WHERE BURIED: Airborne Cemetery, Ranville, Caen, France
MEDALS: 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Victory Medal
Bill Berry was the son of Alfred and Mabel Berry and was born on April 11th 1922 at 12 Hartington Terrace (now Romanby Road) Northallerton and was brother to Phillys Edna and June.
He attended the national school and as a schoolboy was a keen footballer and a member of the local scout troop. When Bill finally left school in 1936 he was apprenticed as an electrician and worked for Miles Sykes Lino Factory Romanby.
In early 1940 Bill like a lot of his pals was keen to join the services. He applied to join the Royal Navy but received a letter regretting that there weren't any vacancies at that particular time but they would let him know when there were. Some days later he volunteered for the army and was soon given notice to join the local regiment The Green Howards at Richmond. A matter of weeks after joining the army he received a letter offering him a place in the navy. Bill and his pal Ken Haw travelled to Middlesbrough and joined the Green Howards and their service numbers ran consecutively. Ken Haw was later to become the President of the Northallerton Branch of the Royal British Legion and ended the war in an artillery unit in Italy. They were both sworn in at the drill hall in Middlesbrough and then 'posted' to Carlton in Cleveland where they lived in the Hartlepool Children's Summer Holiday Home. Their duties included fire watching, patrolling and keeping a look out as invasion seemed very close in the late summer of 1940. They were then sent to Dinsdale Hall and lived under canvas for several months. Sometime later there was a call throughout the army for electricians and Bill immediately volunteered his services and was transferred into the Royal Army Service Corps. (RASC) After a short time he was sent to the Lucas Company in Birmingham for training as a vehicle electrician.
From 1941 soldiers were being shipped overseas to the many theatres of war, and Billy's pal Ken Haw sailed to North Africa, but Bill was held back in England, much to his frustration. Mothers would ask why he was still here in England when their sons were already overseas. There wasn't enough action going on for such an adventurous lad, so he volunteered once more, this time for the Parachute Regiment.
As result he was with the first soldiers to land in France, when he parachuted in with the famous 6th Airborne Division, when the invasion of Western Europe finally got under way with the landings at the Normandy beaches, parachute drops at Caen and glider landings at what is now known as Pegasus bridge.
On the night of the 5th June 1944 Bill, with the 12th (Yorkshire ) Battalion was dropped by parachute to capture the French town of Caen, later to be the scene of some of the most bitter and prolonged fighting of the whole invasion. Caen was to have been captured in the first few days of the invasion but the German forces fought bitterly for every yard of the town and despite heavy bombing raids it was several weeks before it finally fell.
The 12th Battalion went into battle to the sound of hunting horns, which must have been a very strange sound indeed to the defending German soldiers. On the 6th of June during the fighting for Caen while Bill was advancing with his platoon, he stepped onto a land mine and was killed.
His parents received two letters of condolence after his death, one from the Battalion padre and one from Major General Richard Gale,Officer Commanding the Airborne Division in France. The letter from the general was not the standard one of regret, but a personal hand written letter saying how much he thought of Bill as a soldier and how much he regretted his death. A most moving and comforting letter from a general who had trained every step of the way with his men in preparation for the invasion and who cared very much for his men. It is remembered that this and many other letters sent by the general, were written during the fighting and while he was commanding his division.
The following is a transcript of the letter sent to Mrs Berry:
6 Airborne Division
23 July 1944.
Dear Mrs Berry,
It is difficult for me to put into words my heartfelt sympathy for you in the sad loss of your son in action.
To a commander like myself the loss of such a fine young man is indeed a blow & yet for you it must be so infinitely much worse. You must know however that you have our deepest sympathy & that your brave son gave his life in a great enterprise for a very great cause.
Bill Berry lies in a Commonwealth War grave at the Airborne Cemetery Ranville (Caen) Plot 2, Row M, Grave No 13. He is also remembered on the Northallerton War Memorial and the All Saints Church Memorial and the 12th Battalion Airborne (Green Howards) Book of remembrance in Richmond Parish Church.
Bill was killed, aged 22 years.