William Price Drury

Newsletter - Issue 29

William Price Drury, C.B.E.

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.

He died in 1949, aged 87.

The R.M. Barracks, Stonehouse, has a Drury Room containing his desk and memorabilia from his service and literary life. Some years ago a party of Saltash Heritage members was able to visit it.

David Coles

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