Albert John Anstey, a member of the Dowland Ansteys, was born in Iddesleigh on 18 June 1894 to parents John Anstey and Sarah Ann Northcott. He was brother to fellow Anstey Hero Reginald Frederick Anstey. He grew up in Iddesleigh and by the 1911 Census he was a “farmers son” living and working at the family farm, Smythen Farm, in Iddesleigh.
About a year after the commencement of World War One, Albert volunteered for active service, on 10 December 1915. On his Attestation Paper he confirmed that he was unmarried and still living at Smythen Farm in Iddesleigh, working as a horseman on the farm. He reported that his next of kin was his father John and that he was a United Methodist. In February 1916 Albert attended the funeral of his brother Arthur William Anstey, having not yet been called up for service.
Indeed it was not until 21 March 1917 in Exeter where Albert was formally called up and posted to the Royal Garrison Artillery ‘3 Depot’ as a Gunner (Service Number: 145450) in Plymouth. Then in April 1917 he was transferred to ‘No 410 Siege Battery’, finally embarking at Southampton for Rouen in France on 12 August 1917. Albert was transferred to the 13th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (V Corps Heavy Artillery), joining the British Expeditionary Forces in the field on the Western Front in France on 19 August 1917. He was still in the field with the 13th Siege Battery in October 1917 when he was punished with “7 days F. P. no 2” for failing to obey an order.
Albert remained on the Western Front until he was admitted to hospital in France with influenza on 24 June 1918, returning to “base” in August 1918. He was granted leave to return to England from 4 September 1918 to 18 September 1918, and he returned back to the 13th Siege Battery “in the field” in France on 6 October 1918. At the end of October 1918 he was promoted to Acting Lance Bombardier.
Albert was still in France in early January 1919 when he had a medical at Flesselles near Somme, confirming that he had suffering no disability during the conflict. He returned to England on 13 January 1919 and he was transferred to ‘Class Z Army Reserve’ on Demobilisation in February 1919 at Dover, intending to return to live at the family farm in Iddesleigh.
For his services Albert was awarded the Victory and British War Medals.
After the war Albert returned to live and work at Smythen Farm in Iddesleigh. He married Eveline Cole in 1922 in Torrington and they had a daughter Madeline Jean Anstey (known as Jean), born in 1923 in Okehampton.
They were living in East Park, Iddesleigh in 1930 when Albert’s wife Eveline suddenly died. According to the ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ 05 September 1930 edition she “succumbed after a few days to injuries received through some boiling water upsetting and badly scalding her. Pneumonia and septic poisoning set in and despite all that medical skill could devise, her life could not be saved. Mrs Anstey was respected and loved by all who knew her, and deepest sympathy is felt for her husband and little daughter“.
The ‘Western Times‘ on 5 September 1930 reported “The husband, daughter and relatives of the late Mrs Albert J. Anstey wish to thank their many friends for kind enquiries, letters and floral tributes sent in their recent bereavement. East Park Iddesleigh.“
Following this tragedy, Albert remarried Gertrude A. Avery in Okehampton in 1933. By the 1939 Register they were living at East Park Farm, Park Lane, Ash, Okehampton – Albert was a “farmer, heavy worker“. They appeared to be living with three children, one of whom was Reginald A. Anstey (b 1934). They also later had a daughter Christine A. Anstey (b 1942 Okehampton).
Albert died in 1990 in Okehampton at the ripe old age of 96.
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