Gunner Philip Charles Drury, killed in action 30th September 1917.
Philip Charles Drury, known as Charles, was born on 17th July 1894, in Lydiard Tregoze. He was educated first at Lydiard Millicent school, then on 24th March 1903 he moved to Hook School with his sister Kathleen, at which time they lived at The Piece, Hook. Curiously the school register states that his birth year is 1895. The register records him leaving Hook School, but does not mention the date. His nine year old sister Florence died in 1905.
In April 1911, 16 year old Charles was working in a dairy. The following month, his eighteen year old elder brother Henry James, died. His father Tom died in 1915. Suddenly 21 year old Charles found himself head of his family, responsible for his mother, Mary Jane, née Embling, and his younger siblings, Kathleen, Gertrude, Albert and Dorothy.
Charles found a job with the Great Western Railway and the family moved to 66 Westcott Place, Swindon. He worked as a labourer in the mason’s yard in the locomotive and carriage department. The Herald tells us that he was a very quiet lad.
He enlisted in Swindon and served as a Gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery (3259). He saw active service in the 86th Army Brigade Ammunition Column. In late September the brigade were stationed near Ypres. On 24th September they were attached to the 3rd Division and on the following day they took part in an attack on the Blue Line in which they gained all their objectives. From the 27th to the 29th the situation was fairly quiet, disturbed only by several unsuccessful counter attacks. Ammunition, which had previously been in short supply, was successfully taken up to the guns.
On the 30th Sepember the diary reports:
[Brigade] HQ came into action near Wieltje and took over command of B sub group consisting of 86th Brigade and 108th Army Brigade RFA. Batteries fired practice barrage and night firing.
Charles was killed that evening, on September 30th 1917, age 23 years. His Captain wrote:
I very much regret to inform you that your son, No. 3259 Gunner P Drury, was killed yesterday evening, September 30th. The circumstances under which he met his death are these: As we were experiencing a bombing raid by enemy aircraft I issued orders for all men to take cover. About six or eight bombs were dropped close to our camp, and one at 8.15pm dropped right in it, instantaneously killing your son and wounding several others. You have the consolation of knowing that he died a painless death, as a piece penetrated his heart. His funeral takes place today, and is being attended by every available officer, NCO and man, who all join me in expressing our deepest sympathy in your great loss. He was a really good, brave fellow and universally liked by everyone. I will let you have the location of his grave later and other particulars, and I should be obliged if you would inform me of any particular inscription you would like inscribed on his cross.
Unfortunately in the War Diary no mention is made of the bombing raid, or Charles’ death and burial.
Charles was buried at The Huts Cemetery, near Ypres, grave reference 8 D 14. No specific inscription was requested by his mother.
Charles left what the Army termed an ‘informal’ will on page 13 of his Soldier’s Pay Book. This confirms his brigade, and that he was killed in action. It reads: “I leave everything to my mother Mrs Drury, No 66 Westcott Place, New Swindon, Wiltshire. Signed Gr P C Drury, No 3239 RFA.”
Charles was awarded the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. He is listed as P C Drury on the Swindon section of the GWR Roll of Honour.
(He is not remembered on the Hook War Memorial or in St Mary’s Lydiard Tregoze).