Frank Anstey, a member of the Coleshill Ansteys, was born in Coventry on 3 April 1893 to parents James Anstey and Martha Swinton; he was the brother of fellow Anstey Hero William James Anstey. Frank was educated at Bablake School and grew up in Howard Street, Coventry, where in the 1911 Census he was a “junior designer of automobiles“.
Frank signed up for service with the Territorial Army (Rudge ‘D’ Company) at Leamington, Warwickshire on 20 March 1913. At the time of his signing up he was a draughtsman in the Drawing Office of Rudge Whitworth Limited, a major local employer. Then right at the outbreak of World War One, Frank was called up for active service with the the 1st Battalion of the Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery as a Gunner (Service Numbers: 343 and 614026).
Even though we are currently unable to locate Frank’s Service Record or Medical Reports, we can paint a detailed picture of his war story through newspaper reports and by following his regiment, which was the first Territorial Force artillery unit to go overseas on active service, in October 1914.
The ‘Coventry Evening Telegraph‘ 26 November 1914 had the name “Gunner F. Anstey 1909 R. H. A” under a listing of Bablake School Old Boys currently serving.
The ‘Leamington Spa Courier‘ on 13 November 1914 reported: “The Warwickshire R.H.A. [Royal Horse Artillery] Depart for the Front: As we briefly stated in our last issue, the honour of being the first Territorial battery to be sent into the actual firing line belongs to the Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery. Considerable disappointment was caused a fortnight ago by the announcement that the battery, which belongs to the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade, consisting of the Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire Yeomanry, R.H.A. Battery, ammunition column, transport and supply column, and Mounted Field Hospital, was to be left behind, its place being taken by a battery of the Hon. Artillery Company, under Lord Denbigh. However, later news was brought that the battery was to be ready to embark of Friday, October 30th, to be attached to a regular cavalry brigade for active service on the front. The guns of the H.A.C. were handed over to the Warwick Battery, and an entirely new outfit of saddlery and harness was fitted in two days. On Friday Oct. 30th, at 1.30, the right section, under Lieut. Woodhouse, marched out of camp at Thatcham and entrained at Newbury for Southampton en route for France, followed by the left section and column. The only intimation of their whereabouts was received by the chaplain (Canon Melville) in a censored letter from the Army Base Post-office in France, containing the list of the battery and ammunition column, which we produce. During the absence of the battery a reserve battery is being formed under Captain Viscount Ivrea at the headquarters in Leamington, with whom are Captain Jackson, Lieutenants T. Croxall (late Warwick R.H.A.), Mure, and Dixon (Warwick R.H.A.), and chaplain, Canon Melville, C.T.F. (ranking as Major)… The members of the Battery now on active service are: Major (commanding), W. A. S. Gemmell, R.H.A. Reserve: Adjutant Captain W. A. Murray, R.H.A.; captain, the Earl of Clonmell; lieutenants, C. Woodhouse and Earl Poulett; second-lieutenants R. Peto and R. E. Eden; surgeon-lieutenant, F. Clayton, R.A.M.C.; veterinary officer, Lieutenant Seldon, R.A.V.C. BATTERY…… Gunners – Avery, Anstey, Bleasdale……“
The ‘Coventry Evening Telegraph‘ in its 28 November 1914 edition reported “Coventry and the War. The City’s Roll of Honour. We give today the rolls of honour of the employees of Rudge-Whitworth, Limited, of the L. and N.W. and Midlands Railways Coventry passenger Staff, and some additions to that of Alfred Herbert, Ltd. An interesting feature of the Rudge-Whitworth roll of honour is the very large proportion of men who are serving with the Warwickshire Regiment and the Warwickshire Yeomanry and R.H.A. [Royal Horse Artillery] due to the keen interest the firm have taken in recent years in the Territorial movement and their encouragement of employees to join the ‘Rudge’ company of the 7th Battalion R. War. Regt. and other local contingents. RUDGE-WHITWORTH, LTD…All of Rudge Territorial D Company…. F. Anstey, Drawing Office, Warwickshire R.H.A..“
So Frank’s war story is that of the 1st Battalion of the Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery which, according to Wikipedia “was embodied with the 1st South Midland Mounted Brigade on 4 August 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War. Initially, the brigade moved to Diss, Norfolk and joined the 1st Mounted Division. Later in August, a concentration of mounted brigades was ordered to take place around the Churn area of Berkshire and the brigade moved to the racecourse at Newbury. These brigades were transferred to the new 2nd Mounted Division on 2 September 1914. At the end of October 1914, the Warwickshire Battery departed for France, landing at Le Havre on 1 November. It was therefore the first Territorial Force artillery unit to go overseas on active service. Warwickshire R. H. A. was to spend the rest of the war on the Western Front. Initially held up by horse sickness, it was not until 4 December 1914 that the battery was attached to the 2nd Cavalry Division. On 14 April 1915 it joined VII Brigade R. H.A. , 1st Cavalry Division and was assigned to 9th Cavalry Brigade. While with 1st Cavalry Division, the division took part in the Second Battle of Ypres, notably the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge (9 – 13 May 1915) and the Battle of Bellewaarde Ridge (24 May 1915).“
Frank served with the 1st Battalion of the Warwickshire Royal Horse Artillery on the Western Front until 4 June 1916. At this point we can only suppose that he was wounded and returned to England, because in early June 1916 he became a ‘munition worker‘ and he was discharged from service completely on 8 May 1917, returning to his previous employer “Rudge-Whitworth & Co, Limited, Coventry” and residing once again at 63 Howard Street.
For his services, Frank was awarded the 1914/15 Star, Victory and British War Medals.
At some point after the war, Frank became a member of ‘The Institution of Automobile Engineers United Kingdom‘. In 1921 he married Miranda Annie Shaw in Melton Mowbray and they had a son together, born in 1927 in Warwick.
In the 1939 Census, Frank was at the Fernham Hotel in Slough, Buckinghamshire, stating that he was a married Engineering Designer (his birth date was also confirmed as 3 April 1893). He died in 1978 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.
Anybody who would like to add anything to this biography, or knows the identity of Frank’s wife, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.