Corporal Phillip BERRISFORD


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
"D" Company, 2nd/6th Battalion
(Territorial Force)
Service Number:
241821
Date of Death:
3 April 1918 - Died of wounds
Age:
23
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
VII. D. 8.



Personal History:

Phillip was born in the September quarter 1894, the son of William (Locomotive Engine Driver) and Ada (née Corbishley - married March quarter 1894) Berrisford, later of "Myrtledene," Lightwood Road, Buxton, Derbyshire.

In 1901 (Census RG 13/3269) they were living at Alma Street, Buxton. Phillip had two younger brothers, Fred and George. By 1911 (Census RG 14/21236) the family had moved to Lightwood Crescent, Buxton and Phillip was working as a "Shop Assistant"

Military History:
Phillip's Service Papers have not survived, nor does his Medal Index Card show when he first entered the War. However, the 2/6th Battalion was formed at Chesterfield on 14th September 1914 as a second line unit. It moved on 2nd November to Buxton, with Battalion HQ occupying the Empire Hotel. It seems that Phillip was a "Derby Scheme" man with an original 4-digit number. He was called up to 2/6th Battalion in late January  / early February 1916.

                               

After a lengthy period of training in April 1916 the Battalion was posted to Ireland to quell disturbances, before moving, on 12th January 1917, to Fovant and landed at Boulogne 25th February 1917. On the 7th May 1918 they were reduced to a cadre, and were disbanded in France on 31st July 1918.

However, the Battalion War Diary for the period prior to Phillip's death reads:

2 to 10 March 1918 - North Camp, Mory.
Battalion on working parties on Reserve Line Noreuil.

11 to 20 March 1918 - Battalion occupied front line in U.14.

21 March 1918 - Very heavy enemy barrage on front line from 5am to 9.30am. Enemy attacked at 9.30am. Battalion suffered very heavy casualties.

22 to 23 March 1918 - Remainder of battalion withdrawn to Ayette.”

A narrative written later (in 1919) contained the following:

During the night 20/21st March my patrols were very vigilant but they failed to notice anything unusual in No Man’s Land. At 5am the enemy opened a terrific bombardment with guns of all calibres on to Railway Reserve, and the same time commenced shelling the posts in front of that line with trench mortars. The bombardment was continuous until 9am. Simultaneously with the artillery lifting the enemy infantry came forward. This attack was easily stopped and the enemy driven back to its own trenches.

At 10am my left company in Railway Reserve reported that the enemy was attacking in strong force from the direction of Tank Avenue. I was able to reinforce this part of the line where some extremely bitter fighting took place at close quarters. At 10.30am a force of the enemy moved round my flank and occupied Sidney Avenue, the whole of the Railway Embankment was at this time enfiladed from the south by trench mortars and machine guns. I was suffering very heavy losses and it was not possible to collect men to make a bayonet charge which I had ordered to be made.

The enemy after this by bombing, eventually captured the trenches on the embankment up to the Regimental Aid posts. He had also penetrated on my left. After collecting signallers, runners, servants, Battalion HQ fought (with practically no cover from the rear) until the ammunition was spent, and most of the officers and men were casualties. It was not until we were entirely surrounded that that part of the Railway Embankment near Battalion HQ was taken by the enemy.”

The War Diary only contains the bare bones of the action on the 21st March 1918. Between 5.00 and 9.00 a.m. the Germans opened up an intense barrage of shelling and trench mortars, before sending in an infantry attack. This was at first repulsed but by 9.45 a.m. the 7th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, on the right had been overrun and the 2/6th were isolated.

Between 10.00 a.m. and 10.30 a.m. the Battalion position on the Railway Embankment was enfiladed by mortars and machine gun fire, with heavy losses. Despite the Battalion HQ continuing to fight until ammunition ran out, eventually the positions were lost with most of the Officers and men becoming casualties. CWGC Records show that the 2/6th Battalion had 129 Officers and men killed in action on the 21st March. Their sister Battalion, the 2/7th, lost 151 killed in action on the same day. Very few have a known grave, the vast majority are commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

During the action on the 21st March Phillip was severely wounded and taken prisoner and although he was treated in prisoner-of-war hospitals, he died of his wounds on the 4th April 1918, and was buried in Grave VII. D. 8., Mons Communal Cemetery. A comrade of Phillip from the 2/6th, Pt. 32772 Arthur Morley Mellor, also died in captivity and is buried near to him in Mons Cemetery. In fact 14 men  of the Sherwood Foresters died in Mons, in captivity, in the months of March and April 1918.

[The town of Mons remained in German hands for virtually the entire War, from the Battle of Mons (23rd August 1914) until the arrival of the Canadian Corps on 11th November 1918, the date of the Armistice.]

The War Diary specifically for the day Phillip died merely states that the Battalion was in camp:

"1 April 1918 - Proceeded to Aubigny by march route, there entrained for Proven. Marched from Proven to Road Camp F.25.b.1.4. Arrived at 1am 2/4/18.

2 to 7 April 1918 - Road Camp. F.25.b.1.4."


Footnote:
· A number of other Buxton men enlisted in the 2/6th Battalion at about the same time as Phillip - judging by their Service Numbers - and gave
  their lives:
   Sgt/Pt 240842 Raymond BENNETT - was killed in action on the 27 April 1917
   Pt 241700 William Kenneth WEAVER - died on the 26 September 1917
   Pt 241835 Norman WHEELDON (WHIELDON) - died in the same Battle as William on the 29 September 1917
   Dr or Pt 241664 Harold HOY - died of his wounds on the 2 October 1917

Sources:
· I am grateful to Graeme Clark for the extracts from the Battalion War Diary. via the Great War Forum.
· I am also grateful to Martin McNeela for extracts from the Battalion History
· I am also grateful to Pierre Vandervelden for providing the photo of Phillip's grave [see: "In Memory"]

Link to CWGC Record
Phillip Berrisford's grave
poppy
... about the "Derby Scheme"