Born in Bushey in September 1889, Ernest Drake was the second of nine children born to Henry and Florence Moore (née Tibbs) Drake. Baptised on 25th October 1889, at St Matthews Church, Oxhey.
His parents were married on Xmas Day in 1887 at St Matthew’s, Oxhey, Herts. and his father was a lime burner.
At the 1891 Census, the family were living at London Road, New Bushey in the Parish of St Matthew and by the 1901 Census they were at Lime Kilns, Oxhey. The 1911 Census shows them living at ‘Lime Kiln Cottage’, Chalk Hill, Oxhey, but it is not clear whether this is the same address as that given on the 1901 census.
On the 1891 Census, Ernest was one year old and living with his parents and one sibling. By the 1901 Census, he had five siblings and by the 1911 Census he had six siblings.
Note; By the time of the 1911 Census, information was generally filled out by the householder and therefore the same address may be described differently. Also, whilst Bushey is given as the place of birth whilst the address is recorded as Oxhey, these relate to the same Census area, with Bushey being the Civil Parish and Oxhey the Ecclesiastical Area.
Ernest joined the Army Reserve in the Rifle Brigade in 1908 for six years and re-enlisted for a further four in 1913. Records show he had been disciplined at different times for “having a light in his tent after lights out”, for “gambling in camp” and for “being asleep of sentry duty”.
He worked for two or three years as a printer, but left this job because his employers “did not think he would fit in the printing trade and so did not feel justified in burdening him with apprenticeship.”