Rhodesian Personalities

Information on this page supplied by Colleen Murray

Dorothy (Doss) Berry (1913-1999)


Dorothy Helen Berry was known to all her family and close friends as "Dossie" because when she was born, her 4-year-old sister Evelyn could not say Dorothy ! She was born in Cradock in 1913 and was educated at the D.S.G in Grahamstown.

We all knew Dossie as a very gentle, sympathetic and warm person. She was an avid correspondent and kept in touch with friends all over the world. She was also a very private person, and yet always deeply interested in all family activities. She was modest : very few of family and friends knew of her interesting and illustrious career in the South African Armed Forces in Egypt. She joined the W.A.A.S. at the beginning of World War II. She spent many years at the British Head Quarters in Cairo, and also in Cyprus. She quickly rose to the rank of Lieutenant and soon after became a Captain. She was the personal Secretary to a high-ranking officer, and was very involved with secret memos and undercover army manoeuvres. This is borne out by "Top Secret" memos in her possession. Her office in Cairo was in direct contact with Winston Churchill’s' War Office in London.

1942, after the fall of Tobruk, rumours were rife of an impending attack by the Germans and Italians under Rommel on Cairo. Dossie was one of the 719 women members of the force serving in Cairo, who for their own safety, were smuggled out in the dead of night by train, assisted by South African service men, to an hotel in Aswan, where they stayed for 6 days in very uncomfortable circumstances. It was a night to remember !

One of her favourite stories is of her attending a performance in a theatre in Cairo, accompanied by none other than Lord Mountbatten and his wife Edwina. When the three of them walked in, the entire audience rose from their seats and the orchestra struck up "God Save the King". Dossie always relished that moment !

Her Army Release Certificate was issued in January, 1947. Within a few days she received a personal letter from the then Minister of Defense, General J.C. Smuts, which read as follows :

"Now that you are returning to civilian life, I wish to express to you the thanks of your country and for the part that you have played in this great world struggle.... etc, etc." Signed - J.C. Smuts.

Dossie met her husband in Cairo during the War. She married her "Darling Ben" in 1949 and they adored each other. They lived in Johannesburg after their marriage and then went farming in Southern Rhodesia, at Figtree, near Bulawayo. After Ben's death in 1974, she returned to South Africa and has lived in Howick ever since.

Ben had the most wonderful sense of humour :

Both he and his brother-in-law, Pat McCay, were against the un-necessary extravagance of sending Christmas cards every year. So they devised a scheme where the same Christmas card was sent between Howick and Bulawayo, back and forth, every year for many years, until the poor card fell apart from postal fatigue !

Then there was the Rembrandt episode: The whole world was in shock because a famous Rembrandt painting had been stolen out of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the news reverberated around the world through the media of newspapers, radio and television. A telegram arrived from the Berrys in Bulawayo to the McCays at Tweedie which read as follows:

"Congratulations ! Your daring plan succeeded ! Where have you hidden the Rembrandt ? From Ben and Doss

The McCays cringed in horror, waiting for Interpol to arrive knocking at the front door !

Dossie never had children of her own, but she has always had a very close and loving relationship with her two step-daughters - Daphne Bester who lives in Bethlehem and Eileen Nel who lives in Zimbabwe. She has also treated the McCay children as her own: Colleen Murray (Estcourt), Gerald McCay (Port Shepstone) and Rosemary Aitken (Johannesburg)

From all of us who knew her and loved her, we say :

Goodbye Dossie. May she rest in peace.

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