Born in 1921 as one of five children to Percy and Lydia Drew, Sam spent his youth in and around Knodishall where he spent his school years, along with his life long mate Teddy Gisson.
Sam became a Builder/Brick layer to earn his living whilst Ted took up a farming career, at one time they both decided to join forces and breed rabbits for their meat and pelts amongst their many juvenile adventures.
As the clouds of war in Europe approached Sam joined the army as did his two brothers Charlie became a Royal Marine, Derek joined the Royal Engineers, and Sam ended up fighting in North Africa. It was Gen Montgomery who in order to save his armoured vehicles abandoned Sam along with hundreds of his comrades in the battle fields at Bizerta, they were soon overwhelmed by the advancing German Army.
So as not to slow down, the German advance thousands of prisoners were handed over to the Italian army who unlike the Germans showed the POWs no respect, so when German mobile water tankers arrived for the Axis forces, after the Germans had their fill; they ordered the water should go to the prisoners before their guards.
The POWs were herded onto trains before being packed on ships destined for Italy.
Sam found himself in Campo 66 a transitional camp before he could be shipped to Germany, The VATICAN Red Cross were able to confirm Sam’s whereabouts to his Mother and family. It was when Italy capitulated the prison guards abandoned their posts and disappeared into the local community leaving the inmates to flee before the Gestapo arrived. Orders were issued to shoot any escaping POWs on sight; Sam was posted missing presumed dead, unbeknown to allied news service, he and fellow inmates disappeared into the Apennine mountains for months evading capture and certain death if discovered.
Eventually on reaching Allied lines American troops were lining the poor souls up thinking them to be escaping fascists, a Canadian Officer stepped in and probably saved their lives.
On returning to the UK, Sam refused the NCO stripes that were awarded to him saying he could never be responsible for sending men to certain death; He also refused to take part in the Victory Parade in front of the King in London.
Like most of his comrades he just wanted to get home and try to forget and not mention the horrors he had seen ever again. He, like many of his brothers in arms were happy to let Montgomery and those around him have all of the kudos they obviously sought.
Here are some of the many poems he sent to his mum during his incarceration:
April 13th 1943
Another campaign is over
Another battle won
No more do we hear the cannon
Beneath the African sun
But do not let this victory
Dazzle to much our eye
And make us forget our comrades
Who now in Africa lie
Those men with whom we soldiers
In blood and sweat and toil
Must now stay forever
Enriching African soil
Each one a bit of England
And so they remain
Never to be forgotten
Until we meet again
There are many kinds of sorrow
In this world of love and hate
But there is no sorrow greater
Than a soldier for his mate
I wonder how you felt when that message came
Your Son “missing in the field” defending his countries name
Did you find it hard to believe as you slowly read each word?
And then pray to the Lord above your womanly courage stirred
I somehow imagine that you did as you played your motherly part
And faced the world with a smile
And an ache deep in your heart
LOCAL NEWSPAPER REPORT 1943
Coldfair Green Man
LIVED 9 MONTHS IN THE MOUNTAINS
Pte Samuel Drew of Bedwell Cottages, Coldfair Green has now been repatriated from Italy, where he has been a prisoner of war since the fighting at Bizerta, where he was captured by the Germans and handed over to the Italians.
Drew, who was with the Beds and Herts., was formerly employed by Messrs. Smyth Bros builders of Leiston. With some 3,000 other prisoners, he escaped when Italy capitulated and succeeded in escaping detection after living in a mountain village for nine months.
Whilst under the direction of the Italian partisans he helped the peasants in forming themselves into a Patriot Band, and conducted guerrilla warfare behind the German lines “The Padre,” says Drew," was a wonderful man,”
He got arms and ammunition from unknown sources, and even an electric wireless set which proved a god-send to us, until the Germans cut the electric cables.”
The Italian peasants who were very hard up for food, were willing to share their last crumb” with the escaped prisoners many of whom were re-captured by Fascists who once came very near to retaking Drew who was only saved by lying for some hours in deep snow.
Throughout his period of freedom Drew was with a Yarmouth man who was a prisoner with him at No.66 camp.
Back in civvy street Sam picked up the life he had left off over those turbulent few years He resumed his courtship with his sweetheart Winnie who had done her war work in the Marconi factory in Chelmsford.
They married in 1948 Sam moved from his home in Coldfair Green to Aldringham, to set up home
The family grew and grew 7 children in total. I will never forget what joyful time Christmas was Sam, would decorate the room after all of us kids were asleep in bed. Waking up Christmas day and the excitement as we all took our present into mum and dads bed at silly o’clock.Mum and dad making dinner, dad would have jellies lined up in individual trays, the turkey the tinsel, the games we would play after tea, wet flannel fights brilliant fun and memories.
No television, in those days just the light programme on home service radio listening to sing something simple, the Billy Cotton band show, and the black and white minstrel show. Oh magic memories, sitting round the radio, although working as a builder with Steers, Smyth’s and most of the building firms in the area, Sam would love going up to the River Hundred (the Cottage)where he would work as a gardener handyman for his close friend Brig David Reid, the Brigadiers family thought the world of Sam so much so when he died they dedicated a wooden bench bought in his memory, and placed it over looking the swathes of lily of the valley he planted, and would always bring mum a bunch, it being her favourite flower.
During those long summer Sunday afternoons mum would walk us all up to the cottage to visit Patrick the pony and the three donkeys, we would run and play around the grounds and explore the outbuildings, but only when David’s family were not there, as we walked along the road mum had a small transistor radio hanging on the pushchair handle, we would stop and have a chat with Roy and Derdan Catchpole a really nice couple and good friends of mum and dad.
We would all as a family including my Nan walk to Thorpeness to enjoy a paddle in the sea although dad tried to discourage us from being to brave in the water, because his sister had lost her son to sea when he waded out in a low tide onto the sand banks and disappeared from view only to be washed up ashore a day or two later, I don’t think dad could ever really get his head around this tragic event.
Sam would always be building trailers for his bicycles, he would put us four elder kids in the trailer and cycle along with mum down to Aldeburgh to enjoy the carnival and fun fair when we had gotten home and had our supper he and mum would return to the funfair on their own, leaving us kids with nana.
He loved the motorbike scramble/hill climb at Mumberry hills he would put me on his crossbar seat and cycle with my siblings to Westleton to enjoy watching the likes of Dave Bickers and Geoff Smith racing their machines around the course, just like they did on the TV. which was a recent addition to our household on the proviso that we kids gave up our numerous comics so the money would pay the TV rental, Oh boy did he like the wrestling on Saturday afternoon, most of the radio shows we enjoyed moved over to TV plus he did enjoy watching Come Dancing.
The family would secretly dread when the Sprats and Herring were plentiful, Sam would bring them home by the bucketful (literally) the odour of the fish cooking would hang about the kitchen for ages.
He was well proud when I was a Cadet in the Air Training Corp our Squadron was chosen to parade for the Royal visit to Aldeburgh both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh present so he made sure my appearance was up to scratch Collars pressed badges and boots shining Beret on straight and ready for inspection he was in his element.
I remember the times I would help my dad do jobs around the village, he would borrow a tractor and trailer and collect any tree that had blown down, and we would bring it home and cut it up with a large bow saw, He was so chuffed with his first chain saw, I would then stack the logs in the wood shed for the winter, I can still remember the smell of that old shed, one of many he had built in the back yard, along with the dog kennel and rabbit hutch thinking back that hutch could have been an extension to the house, not forgetting the chicken run, my sisters collected the eggs, poor old mum had a phobia about the chooks. And would run a mile if they ever escaped.
Sam became the caretaker down at the Primary school until it closed being replaced by a new primary school in Knodishall, Brother John and I would go and help him on alternate nights, as he would do a day’s work. Then clean the school in the evening, this being before the “NEW” Toilet blocks were added, before that they relied on the ‘bucket and chuck it’ method. The new school year starting in the autumn was time to build fires in each of the class room grates for the coming winter that would mean going down to light them at 5 am each morning.
As the years went by Sam’s failing health started to show following a visit by the Doctor ‘No more heavy work and grow old gracefully!’ was the advice given but of course that wasn’t Sam he simply took over the shopping and chores around the house.
I will never forget the tender side of dad especially when brother John passed away in the middle of the night in the bed next to me, dad came into the room and held him as he died, and he sent me down the hill to phone the doctor, we had no phone in the house at that time I remember the rain lashing down as I ran to get help.
He and mum enjoyed their time together in their retirement, especially the Mystery tours, they both enjoyed having the grandchildren around them on Saturdays Mum would spoil them with dinner, Sunday morning would find Sam cooking full English for the mates and friends who stayed over or came early to enjoy a bacon butty, the family all agreed mums Sunday roasts were legendary.
Mum and dad did so enjoy having the family around them, sharing their love, the old house was never empty with the cats the dogs and budgies all of who were spoilt silly.
He loved the brand new bicycle we bought him, probably the first new bike he ever had, he made it clear when it was his time to go to his maker he wanted Teddy to have his bike and best chainsaw.
It was as if he knew his time was nigh against advice he cycled up to the cottage where a massive heart attack took him from us, he died in a place he loved and created and I’m sure Sam knew this was imminent and he would have wanted to save mum from all of the upheaval and heartbreak at home.