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Henry Drysdale was a student at Bede College, Durham when he enlisted in the Territorial Force in November 1912. He was 19 years 6 months old and had been born in Newcastle on 25th April 1893 and joined the 8th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry as a Private with the number 1949 (later 300138).

He gave his father’s name and address as his next of kin; William Drysdale, 37 Rothwell Road, Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne. His father was a coal miner and the family had been at that address since at least 1901. His mother was Jane and he had five older siblings;

  • John Drysdale (1878)
  • William Drysdale (1881)
  • Sarah Alice Drysdale (1882)
  • Thomas Drysdale (1885)
  • Leonard Nixon Drysdale (1889)

The medical officer described Henry as standing 5ft 10.5in tall and being of good physical development.

When he finished his own schooling he elected to go into education as a profession and became a school teacher.

Henry was embodied and appointed Lance Corporal the day after war was declared, 5th August 1914 and was promoted to Corporal that October. Promotions came quickly for Henry, he was promoted to Sergeant in November 1914 and to Acting Company Sergeant Major in July 1915. He signed the declaration that he, as a Territorial soldier,  would serve outside the United Kingdom in the event of a National Emergency in June 1915.

Henry was accepted for a commission into the 5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 26th April 1917 and joined the 2/5th Bn. in France.

On the night of 5th/6th July he was on a three man patrol where they were ambushed by a party of Germans and he was the only man to escape. Sergeant Lawrence Keogh was killed and Captain Marseille was taken as a prisoner of war. Henry gave his statement of events that night;

Evidence of 2/Lieut H Drysdale

On the night of July 5/6th I was out on a reconnoitering patrol with Captain R. K. G. Marseille and Serjt. Keough, opposite the right sub-sector of the CORDONNERIE SECTOR. We left our lines at 11pm and at about 12 midnight, when we had passed the enemy’s support line, an enemy patrol was sighted, about 6 – 10 strong.

Our patrol lay down in the grass but the Boche threw bombs and fired rifles, so we separated from each other a few yards.

The Captain Marseille told me to make a dash for it; I then withdrew about 30 yards in rear of Captain Marseille and the Serjt. went off to the left. Captain Marseille going off to the right.

I waited 20 minutes, but heard nothing more, so concluded that Captain Marseille and the Serjt. had got away.

I then went back to my Coy. and reported the matter to my Coy.Comdr. who at once organised a fighting patrol which went out towards the spot, but could not find anything.

H Drysdale, Second Lieutenant

Brigadier-General F. G. Guggisberg, commanding 170th Infantry Brigade wrote;

Report of missing Officer and N.C.O

Captain Marseille was the officer in charge of a contemplated raid to be held later in the week and was desirous of personally reconnoitering the ground. He had arranged to go out with a reconnoitering patrol of 8 O.R. but on reaching our front line decided that the moonlight was too bright for so large a party.

He then formed a smaller patrol of himself, Lieut Drysdale and a Serjeant.

His Commanding Officer was with him at the time and approved of this formation, as he relied on Captain Marseille’s judgement, the latter being an expert and experienced patroller. He was particularly desirous of taking Lieut. Drysdale and the Serjeant with him, as the latter had duties in the contemplated patrol which, in his opinion and that of the Commanding Officer, necessitated their going over the ground personally.

I have pointed out to the Officer Commanding 2/5th L.N.L Regt. the mistake of forming a patrol of this nature, and have further informed him that I do not consider the circumstances of the case were such as to warrant the formation.

F. G. Guggisberg, Brigadier-General

Henry was promoted to Lieutenant on 26th October 1918 and after the Armistice in November 1918 he was employed as acting Adjutant to the 5th Battalion holding the rank of acting Captain. He was discharged to the Reserve in March 1919.

Lieutenant Henry Drysdale received the British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal at 116 Beaufort Mansions, Chelsea; and by 1923 was living at 143 Silverleigh Road, Thornton Heath. Surrey.

He died in Croydon, Surrey in 1967.

Paul McCormick
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