Open main menu

Royal Naval Biography/Berry, Edward

Baronet; Rear-Admiral of the Blue; and a Knight Commander oft Ik most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer is a son of the late Edward Berry, Esq., of London, by Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Foster, Rector of Holton, in Suffolk. He was born April 17, 1768, and went to sea at an early age, under the auspices of Lord Mulgrave. The first recorded circumstance of his life was the boarding of a French ship of war, for which action he was rewarded with a Lieutenant’s commission. His subsequent conduct in the glorious battle of June 1, 1794, appears also to have obtained for him the approbation of his superiors.

Early in 1796, Mr. Berry was appointed by Sir John Jervis, under whom he had before served, to the Agamemnon, of 64 guns, commanded by Commodore Nelson, who was at that time employed in laying the foundation of his future fame; and to whose favorable notice he soon recommended himself, as may be inferred from the following passage, which we extract from a letter addressed by that officer to the Commander-in-Chief, May 30, 1796;

“Lieutenant Berry joined me in the Comet, and I have, as far as I have seen, every reason to be satisfied with him, both as a gentleman, and an officer. I had a few days ago a plan for taking the French brig of war out of Vado, and intrusted the execution of it to him; it miscarried from an unforeseen and improbable event, but I was much pleased by Mr. Berry’s strict attention to my instructions.”

Passing over occurrences of minor importance, we shall here introduce the contents of a paper written by Commodore Nelson, some time after the memorable battle off Cape St. Vincent; on which occasion the subject of this memoir, by his extraordinary activity in boarding two of the enemy’s ships, acquired the honest eulogium of every officer in the fleet.

A few remarks relative to myself in the Captain, in which ship my pendant was flying on the most glorious Valentine’s Day, 1797.

"At one, P.M., the Captain having passed the sternmost of the enemy’ ships, which formed their van and part of their centre, consisting of seventeen sail of the line, they on the larboard, we on the starboard tack; the Admiral made the signal to tack in succession, but perceiving all the Spanish ships to bear up before the wind, evidently with an intention of forming their line, going large, joined their separated divisions, at that time engaged with some of our centre ships, or flying from us, – to prevent either of their schemes from taking effect, I ordered the ship to be wore, and passing between the Diadem and Excellent, at a quarter past one o’clock, was engaged with the headmost, and of course leewardmost, of the Spanish division. The ships, which I knew, were the SantissimaTrinidada, 126; San Josef, 112; Salvador del Mundo, 112; San Nicholas, 80; another first rate, and a 74, names unknown.

“I was immediately joined, and most nobly supported, by the Culloden, Captain Troubridge; the Spanish fleet, not wishing, I suppose, to have a decisive battle, hauled to the wind on the larboard tack, which brought the ships above-mentioned to be the leewardmost and sternmost ships in their fleet. For near an hour, I believe, (but do not pretend to be correct as to time,) did the Culloden, and Captain, support this apparently, but not really, unequal contest; when the Blenheim passing between us and the enemy, gave us a respite, and sickened the Dons.

“At this time the Salvador del Mundo, and Sanysidro, dropped astern, and were fired into, in a masterly style, by the Excellent, Captain Collingwood, who compelled the Sanysidro to hoist English colours; and I thought the large ship, Salvador del Mundo, had also struck; but Captain Collingwood, disdaining the parade of taking possession of a vanquished enemy, most gallantly pushed up, with every sail set, to save his okl friend and messmate, who was to appearance in a critical state; the Blenheim being a-head, the Culloden crippled and a-stern. The Excellent ranged up within two feet of the San Nicholas, giving a most tremendous fire. The San Nicholas luffing up, the San Josef fell on board her; and the Excellent passing on for the Santa Trinidada, the Captain resumed her station abreast of them, and close alongside: at this time the Captain having lost her fore-top-mast, not a sail, shroud, nor rope left; her wheel shot away, and incapable of further service in the line, or in chaee; I directed Captain Miller to put the helm a-starboard, and calling for the boarders, ordered them to board.

“The soldiers of the 69th, with an alacrity which will ever do them credit, and Lieutenant Pearson of the same regiment, were almost the foremost on this service:– the first man who jumped into the enemy’s mizen chains, was Captain Berry, late my first Lieutenant (Captain Miller was in the very act of going also, but I directed him to remain); he was supported from our sprit-sail yard, which hooked in the mizen rigging. A soldier of the 69th regiment having broke the upper quarter-gallery window, I jumped in myself, and was followed by others as fast ak possible. I found the cabin doors fastened, and some Spanish officers fired their pistols; but having broke open the doors, the soldiers fired; and the Spanish Brigadier (Commodore with a distinguishing pendant) fell, as retreating to the quarter-deck. I pushed immediately onwards for the quarter-deck, where I found Captain Berry in possession of the poop, and the Spanish ensign hauling down. I passed with my people, and Lieutenant Pearson, on the larboard gangway, to the forecastle, where I met two or three Spanish officers prisoners to my seamen – they delivered me their swords. A fire of pistols, or muskets, opening from the Admiral’s stern-gallery, of the San Josef, I directed the soldiers to fire into her stem; and calling to Captain Miller, ordered him to send more men into the San Nicholas, and directed my people to board the first rate, which was done in an instant, Captain Berry assisting me into the main chains. At this moment a Spanish officer looked over the quarter-deck rail, and said they surrendered. From this most welcome intelligence, it was not long before I was on the quarter-deck, where the Spanish Captain, with a bow, presented me his sword, and said the Admiral was dying of his wounds. I asked him on his honour, if the ship was surrendered? he declared she was; on which I gave him my hand, and desired him to call on his officers and ship’s company, and tell them of it; which he did: – and on the quarter-deck of a Spanish first rate, extravagant as the story may seem, did I receive the swords of vanquished Spaniards; which, as I received, I gave to William Fearney, one of my bargemen; who put them, with the greatest sang froid, under his arm. I was surrounded by Captain Berry, Lieutenant Pearson, of the 69th regiment, John Sykes, John Thomson, Francis Cooke, all old Agamemnons, and several other brave men, seamen and soldiers. Thus fell these ships!

N.B. In boarding the San Nicholas, I believe we lost about 7 killed and 10 wounded; and about 20 Spaniards lost their lives by a foolish resistance. None were lost, I believe, in boarding the San Josef.


Captain Berry’s post commission bears date March 6, 1797. In the course of the same year he appeared at Court with Sir Horatio Nelson; and it has been said that after the King had complimented the latter on account of his exploits, and condoled with him on his misfortune in losing a limb at the attack upon Santa Cruz, that hero introduced his companion to his Majesty, with the remark, “that he had not experienced great loss, as this officer was his right hand!” On the 19th Dec. following, Captain Berry commissioned the Vanguard, of 74 guns, fitting for the flag of his friend Nelson, with whom he soon after returned to the Mediterranean station.

The proceedings of the squadron detached from the fleet off Cadiz to watch the armament about to sail from Toulon, under General Buonaparte, and which ended in the total defeat of the enemy, on the glorious 1st Aug. 1798, have been so amply related in our memoir of Sir James Saumarez[1], that it would be wholly superfluous to notice them again at large; we shall therefore content ourselves with observing, that notwithstanding the excessive damage which the Vanguard received in the Gulf of Lyons, Rear-Admiral Nelson, to whom the charge of the squadron had been confided by Earl St. Vincent, determined not to remove his flag from that ship, which was soon refitted by the great exertions of Captain Berry while at anchor in the Sardinian harbour of St. Pietro, from whence she again sailed in tolerable order.

Soon after the termination of the tremendous conflict in Aboukir Bay, Captain Berry was sent to the Commander-in-Chief with the Rear-Admiral’s despatches, from which we make the following extract: “the support and assistance I have received from Captain Berry, cannot he sufficiently expressed. I was wounded in the head, and obliged to he carried off the deck, but the service suffered no loss by that event. Captain Berry was fully equal to the important service then going on, and to him I must beg leave to refer you for every information relative to this victory. He will present you with the flag of the second in command, that of the Commander-in-Chief being burnt in l’Orient.

On his passage down the Mediterranean in the Leander, of 50 guns, commanded by the present Sir T. B. Thompson, our officer had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by le Généréux, a French 74. He also received a severe wound in the desperate action which took place on that occasion[2]. The enemy, on taking possession of their prize, not only plundered the officers and crew of every thing they possessed, but afterwards by their cruelty and neglect exposed the sick and wounded to almost certain death. However Captains Thompson and Berry were permitted to return, on their parole of honor, to England, where they were received by their countrymen with great applause. Sir Horatio Nelson’s duplicate despatches had in the mean time been brought home overland by the Hon. Captain Capel, and honors of every kind were decreed to the conquerors of the Nile. Captain Berry, after his exchange, was knighted by his Sovereign, received a gold medal in common with the other officers who had shared in the late triumph, and was presented with the freedom of the metropolis, in a gold box, value 100 guineas. He also received the thanks of the Court-Martial held to enquire into the circumstances attending the capture of the Leander, “for the gallant and active zeal he manifested, by giving his assistance in the combat.”

In the autumn of 1799, Sir Edward Berry repaired once more to the Mediterranean, as Captain of Lord Nelson’s flagship, the Foudroyant; and early in the following year had the satisfaction of assisting at the capture of his old opponent, le Généreux[3], and of le Guillaume Tell, a French 80, the only remaining ship which had escaped from the battle in Aboukir Bay. A more heroic defence than that made by the latter vessel is not on record. Her colours were kept flying until she had become an ungovernable log, and sustained a loss of 200 men killed and wounded. During the action which took place on this occasion[4], Sir Edward Berry, who displayed the same matchless intrepidity and able conduct that he had often done before in many trying situations, was hurt in the foot, but not so much as to induce him to quit the deck. The Foudroyant’s total loss was 8 men killed and 61 wounded.

In the month of June following, Sir Edward conveyed the Queen of Naples, her family and attendants, from Palermo to Leghorn, from which place Lord Nelson proceeded across the continent on his way to England, and the Foudroyant to Minorca to refit. Previous to the landing of the above personages, her Sicilian Majesty presented Sir Edward with a gold box, set with diamonds, and a diamond ring.

Towards the latter end of the same year, our officer returned to England in the Princess Charlotte frigate; and during the remainder of the war, he commanded the Ruby, of 64 guns, stationed in the North Sea. His next appointment was in the summer of 1805, to the Agamemnon, another ship of the same class, in which, after having by the most masterly manoeuvres, escaped from a French squadron, consisting of five sail of the line, two frigates, and a brig, he joined Lord Nelson’s fleet, in time to participate in the glorious battle of Trafalgar; but it does not appear that any opportunity was afforded him of particularly distinguishing himself on that occasion.

On the 6th Feb. 1806, we find Sir Edward in the same ship, assisting at the discomfiture of a French squadron at St. Domingo, by Sir John T. Duckworth[5]. For this service he was presented, by the Committee of the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s, with a sword, value 100l. During his continuance in the West Indies, he also contributed to the capture of la Lutine French national brig, of 18 guns; and the Dame Ernouf privateer, of 17 guns and 115 men.

From the latter end of 1806, the period at which Sir Edward left the Agamemnon, we have no mention of him until the autumn of 1811, when he obtained the command of the Sceptre, a 74-gun ship, from which he was removed about the month of Sept., 1812, into the Barfleur, a second rate; and again sent to the Mediterranean.

In Dec, 1813, Sir Edward was appointed to the Royal Sovereign yacht; and in the summer of the following year, we find him in attendance on the allied monarchs, during their visit to the fleet, at Spithead. He subsequently commanded the Royal George, another yacht; and on the 2d Jan. 1815, was nominated a K.C.B. At the general promotion, Aug. 12, 1819, he obtained one of the vacant Colonelcies of Royal Marines; and on the 19th July, 1821, was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral of the Blue. His patent of Baronetage bears date Dec. 12, 1806.

Our officer married, Dec. 12, 1797, Louisa, daughter of the Rev. Samuel Forster, of Norwich, D.D.

Residence.– Catton, Norfolk.