Edward James M. Anstey, also known as Ernest James Anstey, a member of the Castle Cary Ansteys, was born in February 1873 in Slough to parents Henry Anstey and Mary Annie G. Stevens; he was brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Frederick Charles Anstey and Charles Richard Anstey.
He grew up in Slough living at 2, Wexham Road, Upton cum Chalvey. Then on 12 January 1891, whilst working in Windsor as a porter for the Great Western Railway and aged “17 years 11 months“, he decided to join the Army and he was posted to the 3rd Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment (Service Number: 3363). However after only 19 days he was “discharged by purchase“ (possibly because he was underage?). By the 1891 Census he was back living with his family at Upton Lea Cottages, Wexham Road, Upton with Chalvey, working as a general labourer.
Undeterred, a few months later on 1st May 1891 in London he re-enlisted with the Army, this time for a period of twelve years. On his Attestation Form he confirmed that he was aged 18; born in Slough; and a railway porter. He was posted to the Kings Royal Rifles, Rifle Brigade (Service Numbers: 1212 and 6472) on 18 May 1891, serving in the following places:
- Winchester – May 1891
- Dublin – October 1891
- Gibraltar – November 1891 to at least 1893
- ‘SS Victoria’ – January 1895
- Valetta, Malta – 1895 and 1896
- ‘SS Victoria’ – July 1896
- Cape Town – August 1896
- ‘SS Avoca’ – May 1899
- Kilkenny – October 1899
- ‘SS Servia’ – embarked on 4 November 1899 to Cape Town (arriving 24 November 1899) and then on to Durban
Edward arrived in Natal on 29 November 1899 with the 3rd Battalion, Kings Royal Rifles ready to fight in the Second Boer War which had just commenced. He took part in all the battles for the Relief of Ladysmith, namely Colenso (15 December 1899); Spion Kop (24 January 1900); and Vaal Krantz (5-7 February 1900). After this, he was chiefly employed in guarding the railway line.
We do not know precisely when Edward returned from South Africa, but it was certainly before the 1901 Census where he was back living with his family at Albion Villa, 1, Stoke Road, Slough – bizarrely he was described as a “labourer“.
[Research Note: It is very strange that he was described as a labourer rather than a soldier in 1901 but it must be the same person as, for example, his World War One Discharge Form confirms that he was in the King’s Royal Rifles until 1903 and the address in that Discharge Form also matches the 1911 Census – also Edward’s brother Frederick Charles Anstey confirmed on his Army Form that his brother Edward was with the King’s Royal Rifles – everything else fits]
In 1902 Edward married Anna Maria Purrett in Eton – they had children together in Slough Dorothy Eleanor Anstey (b 1903); Frank Edward James Anstey (b 1908); Henry Charles Anstey (b 1911); and likely three others.
Edward was formally discharged from the Kings Royal Rifles on 30 April 1903, having completed his 12 years of service. By the 1911 Census he was living with his family at 34 Queens Road Slough, Slough where he was working as a “pan operator for a malted food company“.
Right at the outbreak of World War One, on 12 August 1914 at Devizes, Edward once again signed up for active service, noting that he was “living at 24 Queens Road, Slough“; that he previously served in the King’s Royal Rifles; and that he was previously discharged on 30 April 1903 “time expired“. This time he was posted to the 20th Company of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Service Number: 26548), having qualifications as a “nursing orderly” and working as a “pan operator“. The ‘Windsor and Eton Express‘ 07 November 1914 confirmed that “Slough: Anstey E. Army Service Corps“ had volunteered for active service.
He was promoted to Acting Corporal on 23 March 1917 and discharged from service on 16 February 1919 as a Corporal, having spent the entire war working in the UK, almost all of it in Trowbridge.
In 1921 the family were still living in Slough – Edward probably died in Aylesbury in 1928, though we seek confirmation of that.
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