Drew of West Penwith and Beyond

A meeting place for researchers of the Drew family of West Penwith and Redruth areas, and their associated families. If you have come across this site during searches for Drew family history, and you feel you might be connected, please contact one of the members to have your name added to the members list.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

William John DREW, Mylor Bridge - Resolved at last

This morning, an e-mail from Maria. She has been talking to her long lost cousin Gail, and some additional research and some family stories has finally brought about a resolution. Julia Annie CAPLE/CAPEL did indeed marry William John DREW, son of Edward George DREW(-DINGEY) and Mary Ann Reid. The clincher was stories from Gail's side of "Uncle James, the policeman". This is James Henry DREW, William John's brother, who married Esther Jane SPARGO, daughter of a gunpowder maker.

So everybody, you can put Julia Annie CAPLE back into the tree in her rightful place.

Whew - I'm glad that's sorted out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Jack, George, and Manfred von Richthofen

Photograph thought to be of 22974 Gunner George Ridgway
(Trust the Army to spell his name incorrectly)

20735 Gunner (a/Bdr.) Samuel John DREW
22974 Gunner George RIDGEWAY.
29th Battery, 8th F.A. Brigade

So commences the citation awarding the MM to these artillery signalers, describing their actions on 24th April 1918. Just three days earlier, on 21st April 1918, the Red Baron was shot down and died in the wreckage of his bright red Fokker triplane. I have vague childhood memories of a Sunday lunch discussion concerning the Baron, and Jack was very definite that the official version of events, awarding the ‘kill’ to the “fly boys” was incorrect and that Australian machine gunners were responsible.

When one looks up SERN 22974 in the National Archives of Australia, one finds that he was from Lang Lang in Victoria. Further searching reveals that on 21st April Gunner Ridgway was located on the top of a ‘brick stack’, witnessed these momentous events and was, indeed, amongst the first to arrive at the crash site.

“As he came to the hill, Lieutenant May, hugging the ground contours, rose to clear the rise and flew on in a straight line after passing it. The red triplane, still following May, also rose to clear the hill but then came under Lewis gun fire from the 53rd and 54th Batteries. It then performed an Immelman turn to return back to the German lines. This aspect of the fight was observed by Gunner George Ridgway, from Lang Lang in Victoria, who was on top of the Heilly brick stack near the Bray-Corbie road and who had an excellent view. Part of Ridgway’s statement is in Bean, (13) the full statement, taken by the Lang Lang correspondent of the Melbourne Herald, after being rejected by his newspaper editor, was sent to Bean. It is available in the Bean Papers. The full text is as follows:

He states that he was about 200 feet from the ground. The first plane passed to the right and rapidly began to climb. As soon as it was out of danger the machine gunners opened out on the German. Von Richthofen, he claims, came within 200 feet of the ground and to save himself he swerved to the left and immediately banked at an angle of 75 degrees. He was sitting upright in the cabin and could be seen plainly at the controls. All this occurred within 100 yards of the Heilly chimney stack.

The first plane having reached a safe altitude, the German plane provided an excellent target for the machine guns who were in a circle around him at Vaux-sur-Somme, Bonney (sic) and Corbee (sic) and thousands of rounds were fired at him, to use Gunner Ridgway's words, "A rain of death bespattered him."

The plane seeking frantically to escape only rose about 500 feet when it turned over to its left, and crashed to the ground.“Gunner Ridgway, who still retains the number plate of the machine was one of the first at the scene. On the number plate are the words: “Militar Fluzzeug (sic) Fokker DR. 1525/17". He is emphatic that the Baron was alive when he banked after the other planes had gone . The nearest plane to him was at least half a mile away. He states that there was plenty of evidence to show that Captain Brown did not get him and hopes that the official War History will be amended even at this late date.
A. W. Madge
Lang Lang correspondent.”

However, although an indirect quotation, Ridgway’s reported statement is confirmed by Lieutenant G. M. Travers MC who wrote a report that is partly quoted in Bean and is continued in the Bean Papers.”


It was not until 1998, roughly, that the circumstances surrounding the death of the Baron was fully reviewed and the ‘kill’ accredited, with some degree of certainty, to the Australian machine gunners.

So, if Gunner Ridgway was there, and if 3 days later Jack and George were working together, it is safe to assume that Jack did indeed have intimate knowledge of the incident.

This snippet was extracted from the Lang Lang and District Historical Society Inc. web site:

“To raise funds for the Lang Lang Bush Nursing Hospital a Ladies Committee organised events such as the Handsome Man contest, won in 1936 by well-known Lang Lang identity, Mr. George Ridgway. “


I have contacted the Lang Lang and District Historical Society for more information and confirmation of the identity of the soldier in the photograph, and they sent me a photograph kindly supplied by George's son. This photo was taken in May 1920, and the face has filled out somewhat after a year of non-Army cooking, but there is enough similarity of features (especially the chin and the bit of hair escaping under the hat) to suggest that we have the correct person.

What do you think?