William Price Drury
One of Saltash's most prominent citizens in the decade leading to World War II was William Price Drury, C.B.E., formerly a Royal Marine officer who eventually reached the rank of Lt. Col. During his military service and after retirement he wrote a large number of books and plays, some of which were produced as films. Several of his books were historical novels with locations in Saltash and the surrounding parishes.
He had lived at Looe and St. Germans before moving to Saltash in 1927, where he resided at Killigrew Cottage, Culver Road.
He was mayor of Saltash for two terms, 1929-1931, being one of the few not elected from members of the Borough Council. During his mayoralty he revived the ancient fair. He was made a freeman of the Borough in 1935.
In 1931 a skeleton was discovered in the mud in the River Tamar off Saltash by two boys, one of whom later became a founder member of Saltash Heritage, Norman Ash. Buttons were found with the bones and were identified as being those from the uniform of an 18th century Royal Marine.
Col. Drury arranged for the remains to be buried in St. Stephens churchyard with full military honours. The headstone was provided at the expense of the Royal Marines, Stonehouse, Plymouth. One of the buttons is now in the Saltash Heritage collection.
Always looking for material on which to base another book, Drury used this episode as the basis for his most popular historical novel Eight Bells, published in 1934, skilfully blending fact and fiction to tell a fascinating story. We also have this book and several of his other works.
Lieutenant-Colonel William Price Drury CBE was a Royal Marine Light Infantry officer, novelist. The saying "Tell It to the Marines", often incorrectly attributed to King Charles II, actually came from the preface of his collection The Tadpole of an Archangel. Drury also wrote a poem entitled The Dead Marines in tribute to the Royal Marines after the Duke of Clarence supposedly called empty alcohol bottles "Dead Marines".
Drury was educated at Brentwood School, Essex, and at Plymouth College. During his Royal Marines career, he served on the China Station and with the Mediterranean Fleet. He commanded the Royal Marines from HMS Camperdown and HMS Astraea who landed on Crete after local Christians and British soldiers were massacred by Turkish Bashi-bazouk forces in 1898. He was a member of the Naval Intelligence Department from 1900 until he resigned to pursue his literary career the following year. At the outbreak of World War I, he rejoined the Royal Marines and served as an intelligence officer at Plymouth. The Royal Marines Barracks at Stonehouse, Plymouth have a Drury Room containing his desk and memorabilia
After a twelve year engagement he married an actress, the daughter of the novelist Mrs Pender Cudlip; shortly afterwards he was invalided out of the service, and although much of their later life was spend in Cornwall, they also travelled in India and South America; in the years before the First World War, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Lord Robetrs (1832-1914), who argued that Britain was unprepared for war; Drury travelled the country lecturing for the cause, and became chief organizer of the National Service League;
Drury's mother-in-law was the romantic novelist Mrs. Pender Cudlip. The actress Ruth Kettlewell was his niece.
The works of William Price Drury:-
•HMS Missfire (1893)
•The Petrified Eye and Other Stories Originally Told to the Marines (1896)
•The Tadpole of an Archangel (1898)
•Bearers of the Burden Being Stories of Land and Sea (1899)
•The Passing of the Flagship (1902)
•The Shadow on the Quarterdeck (1903)
•The Peradventures of Private Pagett (1904)
•A Privy Council (with Richard Pryce) (1906)
•Long Bow and Broad Arrow (1911)
•The Admiral Speaks (1912)
•Calamity Jane, RN (1912)
•All the King's Men (1919)
•The Incendiaries (1922)
•"Tales of our Ancestors: From Elizabeth to James II" (1926)
•" Tales of our Ancestors: From Anne to the present day" (1926)
•Tales of Our Ancestors: From King Arthur to William IV (1927)
•In Many Parts: The Memoirs of a Marine (1926)
•A Book of St. George (1928)
•The Flag Lieutenant in China (1929)
•Pagett Calling (1930)
•Eight Bells (1932)
•The Flag Lieutenant (1934)
•King's Blood (1935)
•A Regency Rascal (1937)
Drury's play The Flag Lieutenant was filmed in 1919, 1926, and 1932 with The Further Adventures of the Flag Lieutenant filmed in 1927 Drury also wrote the plays The Privy Council (1905) and The Admiral Speaks (1910).
The William Price Drury cross in St. Nicholas & St Faith Church, Saltash