Christopher Draper was born at Bebington, on the Wirral in Cheshire, England, into a family of five sons and two daughters. He became interested in flying in July 1909 when Louis Blériot flew across the English Channel. Unable to afford the £75 fee for pilot training, Draper wrote to his local MP, Joseph Hoult, who was an acquaintance of his father. Hoult provided Draper with £210 after making him promise not to tell anyone about the gift. On 9 October 1913, with a total of 3 hours 15 minutes of flying experience, he obtained Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 646 after flying a Grahame-White biplane at the Grahame-White Flying School at Hendon Aerodrome.
While trying to find a job flying, he learned from a cousin in the service that the Royal Navy was offering short service commissions to pilots with an Aviator’s Certificate. After passing the medical Draper joined the Royal Naval Air Service on 27 January 1914 and was commissioned as a probationary sub-lieutenant, RNR.
From January to April 1914 he attended the fifth course at the Central Flying School. Also on the course were Hugh Dowding and Wilfrid Freeman while the instructors included John Tremayne Babington and John Salmond – all of whom were later Air Marshals. After passing his course, Draper was assigned to the Royal Naval Air Station at Eastchurch under the command of Commander Charles Rumney Samson. He was promoted to flight lieutenant in June, and on 20 July he was one of nine pilots who flew in the Naval Review at Spithead, the first review to include aircraft.
Spending the initial war years on Home Defence in Newcastle and Scotland, Draper initiated his liking for dare-devil exploits by flying a seaplane under one of the spans of the Firth of Tay bridge near Dundee. While based at Dundee, Draper was ordered to land an aeroplane on the green at St. Andrew’s golf course. He stopped right in front of the clubhouse.
On 28 June 1915 he was promoted to flight commander.