Alfred Leslie Anstey, known as Leslie, a member of the Back Harbour, Twillingate Ansteys of Newfoundland, Canada, was born on 25 November 1892 in Back Harbour, Twillingate to parents James Anstey and Rowena Laura Rossiter. He grew up in Back Harbour, then on 27 October 1916, about two years after World War One had commenced, he signed up for active service at St John’s with the 1st Newfoundland Regiment (Service Number: 3182) as a Private.
On his Attestation Form Leslie noted that he was born in Back Harbour, Twillingate; that he was a sail maker by trade; and that his next of kin was his father James Anstey, also of Back Harbour.
Leslie was first posted to the 2nd Reserve Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment for training, then soon after to the 1st Newfoundland Regiment. In the 16 June 1917 edition of the ‘Twillingate Sun‘ newspaper appears a photo of Leslie, next to the caption “PTE Leslie Anstey, son of Mr and Mrs James Anstey of Back Harbour, enlisted last fall with 1st Newfoundland Regiment. He recently returned to St John’s having been on three months furlough, is at present in St John’s“.
In July 1917 Leslie was promoted from Private to Lance Corporal, then a month later, he “embarked St John’s for Overseas per S. S. Florixel’ on 4 August 1917“, landing in Britain a couple of weeks later. In December 1917 he was further promoted to Acting Corporal from Lance Corporal, having spent some time training in Dundee, Scotland.
In February 1918 “Acting Corporal A. L. Anstey proceeded to join the 1st Battalion Royal Newfoundland Regiment British Expeditionary Force” which “embarked Southampton 4 February 1918” and “disembarked Rouen 6 February 1918“. He evidently went straight into action on the front line because on 13 March 1918 he was “admitted to hospital in the field, having been buried by a shell“.
A month later on 5 April 1918 Leslie’s father James Anstey received a telegram stating “Regret to inform you that Record Office London officially reports Nbr 3182 Corporal Alfred L. Anstey at 58th General Hospital, Stomer, 27 March, wounded slightly“. A couple of days later he was admitted to 7th Con Depot Boulogne with “slight epididymitis“.
On 11 April 1918 “3182 Corporal Anstey was discharged to 5th Rest Camp, St Martins Boulogne – epididymitis ex 10th Con Depot“. He then rejoined ‘D Company’ of the 1st Royal Newfoundland Regiment at initially their Base Depot in Rouen, and by 25 April 1918 back “in the field“. He remained with ‘D Company’ throughout the summer of 1918 in France (being further promoted to Acting Sergeant from Corporal in July 1918) until on 22 October 1918 his father James Anstey received another telegram stating “Regret to inform you that the Records Office London officially reports No 3182 Sergeant Alfred Anstey wounded Sept 29th remaining on duty“.
On 28 October 1918 his father received yet another telegram stating “Regret to inform you that Record Office London officially reports No 3182 Sergeant Alfred Anstey at 7th Convalescent Depot, Boulogne Oct 14th suffering from gas poisoning and shell wound slight“. The ‘Evening Telegram‘ newspaper also reported this on 28 October 1918, though giving a different date on which Alfred was wounded, stating “Casualty List…7th Convalescent Depot, Boulogne, Oct 18th wounded, gassed, shell slight 3182 Sergeant Alfred T. Anstey Back Hr Twillingate“. The following day he was moved to 30 General Hospital in Calais.
On 4 December 1918, whilst with the ‘Newfoundland Expeditionary Force’, “Sergeant Alfred Anstey was admitted 12 Con. Dep. Aubengye – Dbt ty after VDS” – he rejoined his unit later in December 1918 in Rouen.
He was still “in France” on 31 January 1919 when he was promoted from Acting Sergeant to Acting Colour Sergeant Major. He was “transferred to England for Demob” on 16 April 1919, then a month later he returned from England to Newfoundland on the ship ‘Corsican‘, which left Liverpool on 22 May 1919. He reported at ‘Headquarters’ in St John’s, Newfoundland on 1 June 1919.
Leslie was discharged from service on 15 July 1919 at the Newfoundland Regiment Depot in St John’s, by which point he had served just under three years of active service – he wrote on his Discharge Form that he had served “at the front in France, Germany and Belgium“. Despite his numerous injuries in Europe, he had “no complaints of any disabilities” when he undertook his final medical in June 1919.
For his services Leslie received the Victory Medal and the British War Medal 1914-1919. Additionally, on 1 August 1919 he received a telegram from the Chief Staff Officer which stated “3182, CSM A. Anstey – Dear Sir I have pleasure in informing you that in the next issue of Royal Gazette it will be published that you have been mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch of March 16 1919“. His name can be found in the ‘London Gazette‘ 11 July 1919 issue where it states “Royal Newfoundland Regiment … Anstey, 3182 Sjt. A. L., 1st Bn“. It is not entirely clear at the present time for what specific acts Leslie was “mentioned in Despatches“.
[Note: Given that Leslie was with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment throughout the period February 1918 to July 1919, his general movements would have likely followed that of the regiment, namely:
- The Battle of the Lys, 10-15 April 1918;
- Became ‘lines of communication troops’, going to camp at Etaples, then guard duties at the British General Headquarters at Montreuil-sur-Mer, based at Ecuires;
- On 13 September 1918 the battalion moved to Wormhoudt and placed under orders of the 26th Infantry Brigade of 9th (Scottish) Division.
- The battalion took part in the final battles in Flanders, in and around Bellewaarde, the Keiberg spur, Ledegham and Vichte.
- The division was selected to advance into Germany as part of the Army of Occupation, commencing its move on 14 November 1918.
- The Newfoundlanders crossed Belgium and entered Germany on 4 December 1918 as part of the Cologne garrison.
- Returned in February 1919 to Rouen for Prisoner of War guard duties.
- The battalion landed back in England and went to Hazeley Down Camp near Winchester in late April 1919, taking part in the London Victory Parade on 3 May 1919.]
After returning to Newfoundland, Leslie soon emigrated to America where he married Fannie Elizabeth Chislett in 1924 in King’s, New York. They had children Gladys Elaine Anstey (b 1928 Brooklyn, died an infant); and Lloyd Harris Anstey (b 1929 Brooklyn). In the 1930 Census the family was living in Brooklyn, King’s, New York where Leslie was a carpenter. By 1943 he was living at 726 Park Place, Brooklyn, New York, still a carpenter but now an American citizen (he was naturalised in 1942).
Leslie died in February 1977 in Hicksville, Nassau, New York.
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