‘Gracious’ Elizabeth dies aged 94

The late Elizabeth Drew
The late Elizabeth Drew

Tributes have been paid to a “gracious, sociable and much-loved” Clitheroe woman who died aged 94.

Elizabeth De Burgh Drew died in her home in Waddington surrounded by her family. Born in Hong Kong in 1922, she spent the first seven years of her life living in the far east in Hong Kong, China and Malaysia. At seven – following convention, she was sent to be schooled in Europe – first in Switzerland and then in England. There followed three year absences from her parents followed by joyful six months periods of leave with them.

At 16, Mrs Drew decided to rejoin her parents in Ceylon and spent several years in Ceylon, Madras, Calcutta and Karachi. In March 1942, encouraged by her father, she boarded a troopship for Egypt, enlisting as a Private in the ATS. She rose through the ranks and a year later became the first ATS Officer commissioned in the Middle East – later working at GHQ in Cairo – where she was heavily involved in the top secret Mena Conference between Churchill and Roosevelt. During 1943 she had – along with other ATS colleagues – been asked to visit wounded soldiers in hospital on the Nile and one of those was her husband-to-be, Alexander Drew. She subsequently became engaged to Alexander and asked to be posted to the ATS section working with the Royal Engineers stationed at the old Garnett Mill near Clitheroe, to be near her future parents-in-law, who ran the large and internationally known Textile Printworks at Lowerhouse, Burnley.

The couple married in London in October 1945. They lived in Claremont Avenue, Clitheroe, for a few years and then moved to Waddington. They had three sons – Simon (who died in 1983), Nicholas and Jonathan. All three were educated at Harrow School.

Paying tribute, Nicholas said: “My mother loved everything about living in both Yorkshire and Lancashire (Waddington having been moved by the boundary changes). She was involved in a number of commercial, village and charitable activities - including running meals on wheels for many years. She was a strong and positive person who was funny, gracious, sociable and loving to her family and friends.”

A service of thanksgiving was held on Friday at St Helen’s Church, Waddington. She is survived by Nicholas, Jonathan, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.