Berry, John (DNB00)

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BERRY, Sir JOHN (1635–1690), admiral, of a family long settled near Ilfracombe, was the second son of a clergyman, vicar of Knoweston in Devonshire, who, having lost his living and his means of livelihood in the civil wars, di»'d in 1652, leaving a large family almost entirely destitute. John, as well as his elder brother, went to sea in the merchant service, and in 1663, entering into the navy, was appointed boatswain of the Swallow ketch in the West Indies. Some little time after he was advanced to be lieutenant of the Swallow, and having had the good fortune to assist in capturing a pirate of superior force, was appointed to the command, her captain being promoted to the command of the Constant Warwick, 17 Sept. 1666. On arriving in England he was appointed to the Little Mary, and in the course of 1666 to the Guinea. In 1637 he was appointed to command the hired ship Coronation, of 66 guns, in which he was sent out to the West Indies. The presence of a considerable force of French and Dutch was giving much uneasiness, and the governor of Barbadoes, having taken up eight large merchant ships, which he equipped as men-of-war, gave the command of the squadron to Captain Berry, who, in an engagement with the enemy off Nevis, drove them back under the guns of St. Kitt's, burnt one of their number in the roadstead by means of a fireship, and forced the rest to scatter and fly. In 1668 he commanded the Pearl, which in June 1669 was sent to the Mediterranean with Sir Thomas Allin, and employed with some success and distinction agamst the Algerine pirates. In 1670 he commanded the Nonsuch, still in the Mediterranean, and in 1671 returned to England in command of the Dover. In 1672 he commanded the Resolution in the hard-fought battle of Solebay, and won much credit by the timely and resolute succour he brought to the Duke of York when hard pressed, in acknowledgment of which he was specially knighted by the king on the return of the fleet to the Nore. In the battle of 28 May 1672 he again distinguished himself by his forward and resolute conduct, his ship suffering so severely that she had to be sent into port. In 1675 he was again in the Mediterranean in command of the Bristol, and seems to have been employed on that station, with few intermissions, till 1680. In 1682 he was appointed to the Gloucester, in which the Duke of York took a passage for Scotland; but on 6 May, by the mistake of the pilot, she ran on to a sandbank off the Yorkshire coast, and was totally lost. The Duke of York and as many of his train as could be put into the boat were saved; the yachts in company sent their boats and picked up many of the men, including Berry himself, who stayed by the ship till the last, and took his chance with the rest (Pepys to Hewer, 8 May 1682; Diary and Correspondence of Sam. Pepys, Bright's ed., vi. 142; Add. MS. 15892, ff. 132, 134): but, notwithstanding every exertion, several of the young noblemen and about 150 of the ship's company were lost. Berry was acquitted of all blame, and the next month was appointed to the Henrietta. In 1683 he was vice-admiral of the squadron which, under the command of Lord Dartmouth, was sent out to dismantle Tangier and bring home the garrison, and on his return was appointed one of the commissioners of the navy. In 1688 he commanded in the second post, under Lord Dartmouth, in the fleet intended to oppose the invasion from Holland, but when the crisis came the king shrank from the contest, and the officers of the fleet were left to accept the will of the people. The fleet was shortly afterwards laid up for the winter, and Berry returned to his duties in London, in which he appears to have introduced a strict adherence to routine that was then somewhat unusual and distasteful. His death, which took place at Portsmouth after a few days' illness, was attributed to poison; it might perhaps with greater probability be attributed to a pestilential fever caused by the filthy state of the town. He was buried in Stepney Church, where there is a monument to his memory. The date of his death is given on this as 14 Feb. 1691, that is 1691-2, but it appears by an admiralty minute of 22 March 1689-90 that he was then already dead.

[Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, ii. 524; Charnock's Biog. Nav. i. 143.]

J. K. L.