William Drew was born in Blakeney in 1815. On 12 April 1831, aged 16, he was sentenced to six months in the house of correction at Northleach and whipped for stealing a coat with the value of 4s. He moved to Alvington and gained work as a collier. On 8 October 1839, at the age of 24, Drew was sentenced to 10 years transportation for burglary with an intent to commit a felony. After a spell on the hulks, he was transferred to the Mangles which set sail for New South Wales on 29 November 1839 and arrived on 27 April 1840. The majority of the convicts were landed at Norfolk Island.
He gained work as a shipwright
On 27 March 1860, he was convicted of armed robbery. He was sentenced to ten years of hard labour working on the roads with the first and second years in irons. This was his second offence in NSW. In September 1867 his conduct record showed that he had been punished ten times since conviction but his conduct laterally had been good.