Leonard Raven Berry was born and raised in Chelmsford, lived in South Primrose Hill and worked for Hoffmann’s before the war. He joined the army, fought in Gallipoli, and was killed in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme in October 1916.
BERRY, LEONARD RAVEN,
Lance Corporal, 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment
Leonard was killed in action on 12th October 1916 at Gueudecourt while serving as Corporal 16454 in 'X' Company, 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment. A history of the battalion reported in some detail the heavy fighting near Gueudecourt in which Leonard lost his life:
“Essex, with other units, were transported in ‘buses at six o’clock on the night oft the 9th to relieve part of the 37th Brigade in the firing line. They marched up to the support line through Delville Wood... The battalion was moved into the firing line on the 11th in readiness for an attack in co-operation with the Newfoundland Regiment. Gueudecourt lay just below a German defensive system, the last but one to be penetrated before Bapaume could be reached from the south.....The advance took placed at 2.5 p.m. on October 12th;
Leonard was born in Chelmsford in 1877, the one of six children of John William Berry and Julia Berry (nee Sams). Leonard’s father had been born in 1848 at Hunslet near Leeds in Yorkshire; his mother in 1853 in Chelmsford. They had married in London in 1872.
Leonard’s siblings were Ernest William Frank Berry (born in Bloomsbury, Middlesex 1874, died 1944), Albert John Berry (born in Chelmsford 1874, died in 1960), Laura Beasley Berry (born in Chelmsford in 1878, died in 1943), Elsie Ada Barry (1881-1884), and Lily Emily Berry (born in Chelmsford in 1885, died in 1963).
The 1881 census found four year-old Leonard living with his parents and three siblings at 1 Lower Primrose Hill Terrace, Chelmsford. At the time his father was a leather grounder.
A decade later the family, now of seven remained at the address, known as 1 Primrose Terrace, South Primrose Hill. Leonard, aged 14, was employed as a printer’s boy. His father and brother Ernest were both leather dressers. Brother Albert was a printer’s apprentice.
At the 1901 census 24 year-old Leonard was visiting the family of George Johnson, a commercial traveller, at 189 Pentonville Road, Clerkenwell, London. Leonard was a stationer, probably for the Chelmsford firm of J. H. Clarke and Co. Meanwhile his parents and two sisters were resident at 43 South Primrose Hill.
Street directories of 1910, 1913 and the register of electors 1914-15 showed his father remaining at their 1901 home which had been renumbered 57 in the intervening period, and was numbered 69 by 1914, before finally being given its modern-day number, 39, in 1946 (pictured). The 1911 census listed Leonard, aged 34, living with his parents at the property. He was employed as a steel ball lapper at Hoffmann’s ball-bearing factory in Chelmsford. His father was employed as a leather dresser. Leonard’s mother died later that year, on 7th December, aged 58.
Leonard lived in Chelmsford and was working at Hoffmann’s at the outbreak of the war. He enlisted in Chelmsford, and served in the 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment. The battalion had been in Mauritius when the war started, and returned to England in December 1914, where Leonard is presumed to have joined it. He saw action in Gallipoli, landing there on 10th June 1915, weeks after the bulk of the battalion had gone ashore at Cape Helles on 25th April 1915. The battalion was subsequently evacuated from Gallipoli to Egypt in January 1916. From there it sailed to Marseilles on 16th March 1916. The battalion took its place on the Western Front in April 1916 and three months later participated in the Battle of the Somme.
W and X Companies moving from the trenches in front of Gueudecourt, and Y and Z being in support in the Sunken Road. The barrage fire was well timed, and under cover of it W and X Companies took the first line trenches, There they were reinforced by half of Z Company. The remainder of the battalion swung left-handed, as the objective had not been gained by the 7th Suffolks.....Meanwhile X and Y Companies had ‘mopped up’ the dug-outs of the first objective, killing 300 Germans and capturing 60 of the 64th Brandenburgers, known as the ‘Crown Prince’s Little Berlin Boys’. They then moved on to the second line, but about half-way across were stayed by very heavy fire from front and flanks, particularly from the left. ......The 18th Brigade on the right and the 35th Brigade on the left did not get forward, and the Essex companies gradually retired in waves to the first objective, where they remained for two hours bringing enfilade fire to bear, thence back to the front line, on relief, where they re-organised. At nightfall the battalion held the original front line, and the Newfoundlanders retained the first objective.”
Today Leonard lies at London Cemetery And Extension, Longueval, Somme, France (grave: 2.D.27), one of many burials brought in from the surrounding battlefields after the Armistice.
The Essex County Chronicle of 10th August 1917 reported:
"Mr. J. Berry, of 69 Primrose Terrace, South Primrose Hill, Chelmsford has received notification that his son, Leonard Raven Berry, who was previously reported as missing last October, is now officially reported dead. The deceased was working at Hoffmann's when war broke out, when he volunterred as one of Kitchener's Army. Ay one time he was at Messrs. J. H. Clarke and Co.'s, Chelmsford."
Leonard is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral and on the Hoffmann Manufacturing Company’s War Memorial at Chelmsford Cathedral (pictured). He was entitled to the Victory, British War and 1915 Star medals.
A 1920 street directory listed Leonard’s father back at his South Primrose Hill property having not been listed there in the 1918 register of electors. He died in early 1925, aged 76.
Leonard’s grandfather, John Berry, who had been born in Oxfordshire around 1821, was the brother of Thomas Berry, who had been born in Oxfordshire around 1819. One of Thomas’ grandsons was Albert Henry Berry who is also commemorated by the Chelmsford Civic Centre War Memorial. Leonard and Albert were second cousins.
Leonard was one of the ‘South Primrose Hill Boys’.