We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Berry, Sir Edward, baronet (1768–1831), naval officer, was one of a large family left in straitened circumstances by the early death of his father, a merchant in London. Through the patronage of Lord Mulgrave, a former pupil of his uncle, the Revd Titus Berry of Norwich, and one of the lords of the Admiralty, the boy was in 1779 appointed as a volunteer to the Burford (70 guns) with Captain Rainier, then sailing for the East Indies, where she remained until after the end of the war in 1783. He was made lieutenant on 20 January 1794, as a reward, it was said, for bravery in boarding a French warship; he also, reportedly, distinguished himself on 1 June; but the first distinct mention of him is on his appointment to the Agamemnon with Nelson in May 1796. He quickly won Nelson's esteem, followed him to the Captain on 11 June, and, while Nelson was on shore conducting the siege of Porto Ferrajo, Berry, then first lieutenant, so commanded the ship as to gain his captain's praise. This special service won for him commander's rank, on 12 November 1796; but, while waiting for an appointment, he remained as a volunteer on board the Captain, and was thus present in the battle of Cape St Vincent, when he led the boarding of the San Nicolas.

Berry was posted on 6 March 1797 and, being in England in October, was taken to court by Nelson, who, on the king remarking on the loss of his right arm, promptly presented Berry as his right hand. It was agreed between them that, when Nelson hoisted his flag, Berry would be his flag-captain; and on 8 December Nelson wrote to him: ‘If you mean to marry, I would recommend your doing it speedily, or the to-be Mrs Berry will have very little of your company, for I am well, and you may expect to be called for every hour’ (Dispatches and Letters, 2.456). On 12 December 1797 Berry married his cousin Louisa, daughter of the Revd Dr Samuel Forster of Norwich. On 19 December he was appointed to the Vanguard, but the ship did not leave England until 10 April 1798. In the battle of the Nile Berry, as captain of the flagship, had his full share, and when Nelson was wounded caught him in his arms and saved him from falling. He afterwards published anonymously An authentic narrative of the proceedings of his majesty's squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, from its sailing from Gibraltar to the conclusion of the glorious battle of the Nile, drawn up from the minutes of an officer of rank in the squadron (reprinted from the True Briton and The Sun newspapers, with additions, 1798): this proved a valuable account [see also ].

Within a few days of the battle Berry was sent in the Leander with Nelson's dispatches. On 18 August 1798 the little 50-gun ship was met by the Généreux (74 guns) and captured after a stout defence, in which Berry received a severe wound in the arm. He was taken, with the ship, to Corfu, and did not reach England until the beginning of December. The news of which he was the bearer had been already received, but Berry was enthusiastically welcomed; he was knighted on 12 December 1798, and presented with the freedom of the City of London, in a gold casket valued at 100 guineas. Early in the spring of 1799 he was appointed to the Foudroyant, in which he arrived at Palermo on 6 June. On the 8th Nelson hoisted his flag on board, but afterwards, staying at Palermo, sent the Foudroyant to strengthen the blockade of Malta. Berry had thus the satisfaction of assisting in the capture of his former captor, the Généreux, on 18 February 1800 and of the Guillaume Tell, on 31 March, the last of the French ships which had been in the battle of the Nile. In the following June the Foudroyant carried the queen of Naples from Palermo to Leghorn; she presented Berry with a gold box set with diamonds, and a diamond ring. A few months later Berry left the ship and returned to England. In the summer of 1805 he was appointed to the Agamemnon, and joined the fleet off Cadiz, only just in time for Trafalgar; he had, however, no opportunity of special distinction in the battle, nor yet, the following year, on 6 February, in the action off San Domingo. The Agamemnon was put out of commission towards the end of 1806, and Berry was made a baronet (12 December 1806). He is said to have been the only officer in the navy, of his time, except Collingwood, who had three medals, having commanded a ship in three general actions, namely, the Nile, Trafalgar, and San Domingo. In 1811 he commanded the Sceptre, and in September 1812 changed into the Barfleur, which he took to the Mediterranean. In December 1813 until the peace, he commanded one of the royal yachts, and on 2 January 1815 was made a KCB. On 19 July 1821 he attained the rank of rear-admiral, but never hoisted his flag. His health was much harmed, and for several years before his death he was incapable of any active duties. He died at his residence in Bath on 13 February 1831, and was buried at Bath. He left no children, and the baronetcy became extinct.

Berry was noted more for seamanship and courage than intellect. Shortly before Trafalgar, Nelson observed his ship joining the fleet: ‘“Here comes that damned fool Berry!” he laughed, “Now we shall have a battle”’ (Pocock, 319).

J. K. Laughton, rev. Andrew Lambert


D. Syrett and R. L. DiNardo, The commissioned sea officers of the Royal Navy, 1660–1815, rev. edn, Occasional Publications of the Navy RS, 1 (1994) · T. Pocock, Horatio Nelson (1987) · GM, 1st ser., 101/1 (1831) · Naval Chronicle, 15 (1805) · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 1 (1823) · The dispatches and letters of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, ed. N. H. Nicolas, 7 vols. (1844–6)


NMM, log-books and letters from Lord Nelson |  BL, corresp. with Lord Nelson, Add. MSS 34905–34930, passim


W. Ridley, stipple, pubd 1779 (after W. Grimaldi), BM, NPG · G. Keating, mezzotint, pubd 1799 (after H. Singleton), BM · D. Orme, stipple, pubd 1799, BM, NPG; repro. in Naval Chronicle (1799) · W. Bromley, J. Landseer, and Leney, group portrait, line engraving, pubd 1803 (Victors of the Nile; after R. Smirke), BM, NPG · J. S. Copley, oils, 1815, NMM