The First World War Diary of Noel Drury, 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Gallipoli, Salonika, The Middle East and the Western Front, ed. Richard S. Grayson

The First World War Diary of Noel Drury, 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers – Gallipoli, Salonika, The Middle East and the Western Front, ed. Richard S. Grayson

Noel Drury was one of the earliest Irish volunteers after the outbreak of war in 1914, and ended up serving with the 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers. As with many of the new volunteers it took some time for Drury to actually enter combat, in his help delayed further by the battalion being sent to the Mediterranean theatre. Finally, almost exactly a year after the outbreak of war, he went ashore at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli. After that his military career saw him serve on the Serbian front and in Salonika, in Egypt and Palestine and finally on the Western Front, although his actual periods of intense combat were surprising short and far between.

Drury’s division was a mixed Protestant and Catholic one, so he had a great deal more exposure to the Catholic church than at any earlier point in his life. Drury himself came from the Protestant community, and judging by his surprise at finding himself marching to a Catholic mass to ‘rebel tunes’ from the Unionist community (although he stayed in Ireland after independence). We get an interesting insight into the attitude of the Irish serving in the Dublin Fusiliers when news of the Easter Uprising reached them. Drury described it as ‘a regular stab in the back for the fellows out here’, and was afraid of how his unit would be treated by their comrades (although this turned out to be unjustified).

Drury’s military career demonstrates that even at this date illness could be as serious a threat as the enemy, as he spent an entire year away from his battalion suffering from malaria, which even after his return caused more absences. We thus get some material on how he was treated in the medical system, although with a gap between July 1916 and July 1917 while he was recuperating.

Drury’s diary gives us an well written and enthralling account of life on a wide range of fronts of the First World War. We get a sense of his frustration at Gallipoli, where it feels like chance after chance for some significant successes were missed, the lack of activity for most of the time at Salonika (especially after the Allies retreated further than the Bulgarians were willing to advance!). One interesting comment during the final period of the war is that his unit was much happier once they were out of the trenches and open warfare had resumed. This was clearly an advantage of moving troops from Palestine to the Western Front, as units that had spent the entire war in the trenches tended to be less confident in open warfare.

1 – Volunteering and Training, September 1914-July 1915
2 – The Voyage to the Dardanelles, July-August 1915
3 – Gallipoli: Landing at Suvla Bay and the Next Ten Days, 7-17 August 1915
4 – Gallipoli: Digging In, 18 August-October 1915
5 – The Serbian Front and the Battle of Kosturino, October-December 1915
6 – The Salonika Front and Hospital, December 1915-September 1917
7 – Egypt and Palestine, September-December 1917
8 – Defending Jerusalem and the Battle of Tell ‘Asur, December 1917-July 1918
9 – France, July-11 November 1918
10 – Armistice, 12 November 1918-11 March 1919

Author: Noel Drury
Editor: Richard S. Grayson
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 348
Publisher: Boydell
Year: 2022

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