Staff Sargent Clarence Berry is known as 'Lucky' by his fellow soldiers due to him surviving the First World War from start to finish with only minor wounds and burns.
He grew up on the streets of Salford and joined the army when old enough, being assigned to the Manchester Regiment 2nd Battalion and was shipped to France with the British Expeditionary Force.
Wilfred Owen joined them in July 1916 as a second lieutenant with Clarence assigned to assist him. Although the two did not get on initially, after a year they called each other friends. Wilfred was known for writing poetry about the war that felt flat and portentous to Clarence. He did notice that Wilfred would cock his head as though hearing some far off music when reciting the poetry, however.
They were assigned to attack the the Hindenburg Line near Savy Wood, pushing towards trenches on the west side of St Quentin. Wilfred was unusually quiet during the charge and kept his head craned as though listening to something in the distance. During the charge, Clarence became caught in barbed wire and saw Wilfred standing, swaying slightly and Clarence thought he heard some far off melody. There was a single gun shot, supposedly hitting Wilfred before he was hit by a mortar shell. Clarence disengaged from the barbed wire and crawled back to his trench.
A week and a half later a scouting party found Wilfred in a crater along with the remains of a man named Joseph Rayner.
Clarence went to see Wilfred during his recovery, to find him in the worst case of shell-shock his doctor had ever seen. Wilfred said he had "seen the war". He said it was no taller than a man and had three faces, one to play its scrimshawed pipes of bone, one to scream its dying death cry and one who did not open its mouth, for when it did blood and sodden soil fell out like a waterfall. Those hands not playing the pipes held an assortment of weapons or held hands up in supplication and one saluted. It wore an olive green wool coat with burnt and scarred skin visible beneath. The piper came to claim Wilfred, who begged for his life. The Piper paused before offering him a pen. Wilfred knew he would live to play its tune but it would return for him one day.
Since then, every time they went over the top some of the men appeared to be listening to the distant music and never came back. These events caused Clarence to recall the phrase "paying the piper" and its connections to the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Wilfred's poetry became better and more haunting. He returned to the field in July 1918. On the 1st Oct 1918 they stormed Joncourt where Wilfred fought with terrifying ferocity. A month later Clarence awoke to find Wilfred sitting beside him; the ensuing conversation included Wilfred saying "Almost over now, Clarence". He died a few days later during the Battle at Sambre-Oise, as a bullet hole just opened up in his forehead... without Clarence having seen a shot hit him. On that day the first moves towards peace were made apparently and a week later the armistice was signed.
Post-Statement Follow-Up Edit
No follow up from this statement as it's so old, although Jonathan Sims remarked that Gertrude's record keeping was atrocious and that he felt that he had heard the name 'Joseph Rayner' before.