Ernest John Anstee, a member of the Barnet Anstees, was born in Mill Hill, Hendon on 15 October 1861 to parents John Anstee and Georgina Matilda Ross. After growing up in Hendon, Ernest joined the Army on 25 September 1878 at Woolwich, signing up for eight years of full time service and four years of reserve service with the Royal Artillery as a Gunner (Service Number: 18084). At the time of his signing up, he was an unmarried carpenter, giving his next of kin as his father John Anstee of Mill Hill, Hendon.
Ernest served in India from 7 December 1880 until 8 November 1888, however his time spent there was relatively uneventful, with no wounds incurred or campaigns fought. His conduct was overall deemed “good“, apart from one episode whilst with the 1st Brigade North Division in September 1882 where he was “tried and imprisoned” but with “sentence remitted” after a single day in “prison“; evidently it was a minor misdemeanour.
Ernest was promoted to Bombardier in 1887 and he was transferred to the Army Reserve on 16 November 1888 after his return to England. He was formally discharged from the Army at Devonport on 19 September 1890 after his twelve year stint was complete, intending to return to the Three Hammers Public House in Mill Hill, Hendon (the pub which his parents ran). On his return to Mill Hill, Ernest played cricket for the Mill Hill Cricket Club, being voted their “second best batsman” in October 1890.
Also in 1890, Ernest married Charlotte E. Matthews in Paddington and they had children:
- Mabel Florence Anstee (b 1891 Fulham, a general servant at Clovelly Alexandra Grove North Finchley in the 1911 Census. She married Frederick Harry Bromley);
- William Anstee (b 7 January 1892 Fulham – an Anstey Hero who lived in Hendon (a fitter’s assistant in the 1911 Census living with his family). William volunteered for active service right at the outset of World War One, as reported in the ‘Hendon & Finchley Times‘ on 28 August 1914. In fact he had already signed up for a period of twelve years with the Royal Navy on 30 December 1912 (Service Number: K17163), at which time he was a plumber’s mate. During the war he served on HMS Hindustan until April 1916 then HMS Royal Sovereign until January 1917; then Victory II; and finally HMS Cormorant? He was entitled to receive a war medal because of his service on HMS Excellent (in 1920), at which time he was a Stoker 1st Class. After the war William continued to serve with the Royal Navy until 1929. He then became a Merchant Seaman (presumably soon after leaving the Royal Navy) and was discharged from service in November 1949);
- John Anstee (b 1893 Fulham, died young);
- Maud Alice Anstee (b 1896 Hendon, known as Alice, living with her family in the 1911 Census);
- Albert Anstee (b 1899 Hendon – an Anstey Hero);
- Gertrude Charlotte Anstee (b 1901 Hendon, living with her family in the 1911 Census);
- Violet Elsie Anstee (b 1904 Hendon, living with her family in the 1911 Census);
- Ernest James Anstee (b 1906 Hendon, living with his family in the 1911 Census); and
- Lilly Georgina Anstee (b 1909 Hendon, living with her family in the 1911 Census)
In the 1891 Census the family were living at Hugon Road, Fulham – Ernest was a police constable. In May 1900 Ernest, a scaffolder, reenlisted temporarily with the Army and was posted to the Nbr 1 Depot of the Royal Garrison Artillery (Service Number: 4620), however that must have been a very short contract because by the 1901 Census they were living at 4, Church Walk, Hendon where he was a bricklayer’s labourer. By the 1911 Census the family was living at 24 Fuller Street, Hendon – Ernest was still a bricklayers labourer.
Just after the outbreak of World War One, like many former soldiers, Ernest re-enlisted, on 14 December 1914, at first with the Hendon Battalion National Reserve as a Sergeant (Service Number: 14788). From there he was transferred to the Royal Defence Corps (whose role was “to provide troops for security and guard duties inside the United Kingdom; guarding important locations such as ports or bridges“). Ernest was discharged just under two years later on 6 November 1916, by this time an Acting Corporal, and issued a ‘Silver War Badge’ the following month, being “no longer physically fit for war service“.
[Note: On his original Royal Artillery Army Service Record sheet is written “Discharged to pension from R. D. Corps 117 Prot Co on 6-11-16 as No 14788“. From this we know that Ernest was attached to the 117 Protection Company of the Royal Defence Corps, which was based in London]
The ‘Hendon & Finchley Times‘ on 26 January 1917 reported “Sergeant E. Anstee, late Royal Artillery, who has been doing duty in the R. V. D. was last week presented by the warrant officers and sergeants of the Military Guard at Alexander Palace with a handsome silver teapot of antique design on his retirement in November from the Royal Defence Corps“.
Ernest’s wife Charlotte died in Hendon in 1918 so in 1920 he remarried Harriet Sarah Bennett in Barnet. They remained living in Barnet until around 1930 when they moved to live at 90 Fitzroy Street in Cambridge. In the 1939 Register they were still living there, Ernest being described as a “retired builders labourer“.
Ernest died in 1949, still living in Cambridge.
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