Born at Crowle in December 1893, John was the eldest son and one of ten children of Anthony Drewery and Elizabeth Webster (nee Drinkall), both of whom were also from Crowle. In 1901 his father was a farm labourer and the family lived in Station Terrace, Eastoft Road.
John also began his working life as a farm labourer until sometime in late 1912 or early 1913 when he enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Scunthorpe. In August 1914 he was in camp at Portsmouth with the 1st Lincoln’s when war was declared and was consequently among the first troops to be mobilised for service with the British Expeditionary Force.
The 1st Lincoln’s arrived in Le Harve on 14th August, part of the 9th Brigade in 3rd Division. They were involved in The Battle of Mons and the actions of subsequent retreat, the Battle of Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne, the Battle of the Aisne and at Messines.
In November 1914 they had followed the Race for the Sea up to Ypres and subsequently became involved in the First Battle of Ypres. From 6th November they were stationed in trenches south of the Menin Road, close to a wood known as Nonnebosschen (Nun’s Copse) one and half miles east of Hooge. Just as the weather was about to change for the worst. The Regimental History describes the scene:
‘A cold mist covered the battlefield when dawn broke on the 7th November : winter had definitely begun and the troops were now to fight under conditions without parallel in the history of the British Army. Mud, water, rain, frost and snow were not unknown in the battles and campaigns of the past, but these combined with terrific shell fire of unprecedented fury produced conditions under which troops had never before lived and fought.’
Life in the trenches was made even more uncomfortable by the constant German sniper and artillery attacks. From which between 7th and 10th November the battalion lost one man killed and 19 wounded.
On the 11th November the German’s staged a full-scale assault on the trench and the 1st Lincoln’s suffered more casualties, 5 men killed and 15 wounded.
It is uncertain in which of these incidents John was wounded. Whichever it was the medical team were unable to save him and on 12th November John Webster died of his wounds.
Buried at the time in the grounds of Staatsweldhuis School, Ypres, the site of his grave is now lost. John is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
Although Percy Walton had died at La Bassee two weeks earlier news of this had yet to be confirmed. So when that of John’s death reached Crowle he was recorded as the first local man to loose his life in the war.