John Berryman VC

b. 18/07/1825 Dudley, Staffordshire. d. 27/06/1896 Woldingham, Surrey.

John Berryman (1825-1896) was born on 19th July 1825 in Dudley, Staffordshire. His father, Edward, was a victualler and inn keeper in Dudley, and his mother’s name was Elizanbeth. He was baptised at St Thomas’ Church. In 1832, he survived an outbreak of cholera in the town, which claimed the lives of three of his siblings. By the way of a trade, he was apprenticed to a cabinet maker, and he stuck to the task until he turned 18.

John Berryman VC

Shortly after his 18th birthday, he enlisted at Birmingham in the 17th Lancers. He was by all accounts a model soldier and was promoted to Corporal in 1848. He then got himself into trouble with the authorities and was court-martialled, the result of which was demotion back to the ranks. In 1851, he regained his Corporal stripes, which was a relief to his now widowed mother living at 17 Flood Street in Dudley.

In 1854, the Crimean War broke out and the Regiment as well as the rest of the Light Brigade were sailed off to Bulgaria. He spent the first 3 months of the War there, where he was promoted to Sergeant. They then moved to the Crimea and were in action soon after landing at Sebastopol.

On the 25th October 1854, on the plains at Balaclava, he would perform the actions which would lead to the award of his VC. Berryman was in one of the front two lines of the charge, and watched as Captain Nolan, who led the charge, was killed by a Russian shell. Berryman made it to the Russian guns, where his horse, wounded and with a broken leg could go no further. He himself was also wounded, as was his own troop officer, Captain Webb, whose leg was shattered and unable to ride. Unable to advance, they were joined by another 17th Lancer, John Farrell, and disobeying Webb’s orders to save themselves, they carried him under heavy fire towards their own lines. With the help of a third man, Corporal Joseph Malone, from the 13th Light Dragoons, they got him to safety.

Sadly, Webb, having had his leg amputated, died in hospital on 6th November. Before their return to England, Berryman was promoted to Troop Sergeant Major. He was awarded the VC (London Gazette, 24th February 1857). He received the medal from Queen Victoria at Hyde Park on 26th June 1857. Later that year, he sailed on SS Great Britain bound for India, to help quell the Mutiny. He married in India in 1863 and they had a daughter. Sadly, cholera would badly affect Berryman’s life again, as his wife was claimed by the disease in 1865. He was promoted again to Quartermaster and he served in the Army back in England for a number of years.

In 1879, he was posted to South Africa to take part in Zulu War, and the 17th Lancers found themselves heavily involved. The Regiment’s last full blown charge was on the 4th July 1879 at the Battle of Ulundi, where the Regiment’s two Adjutants, John Brown and Berryman became the only men to take part in charges in the Crimea, India and the Zulu Campaigns. In 1880, he transferred to the 5th Lancers and became an Honorary Major, before retiring from the Army in 1883.

He died on 27th June 1896, a few weeks short of his 71st birthday, and was buried in St Agatha’s Churchyard, Woldingham, Surrey. His medals are not publicly held.





Kev Barnes – images of John Berryman VC’s grave