Geoffrey Arthur Anstee, a member of the Toddington Anstees, was born in 1895 in Chalton near Toddington, Bedfordshire to parents William Henry Anstee and Florence C. Elliot. As a child he attended St John’s College in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.
At the beginning of World War One, Geoffrey volunteered for the Special Reserve of the Bedfordshire Regiment, and in 1915 he was promoted to ‘Second Lieutenant on probation‘ of the ‘Special Reserve – Infantry‘. By June 1915 he was attached to the 4th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment.
Geoffrey entered the ‘France’ Theatre of War in January 1916, joining the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment on 7 February 1916 at Maricourt in Northern France. He went on leave on 10 May 1916, returning by 18 June 1916 where he and fifty others “left trenches for Bray Sur Somme to practice for a Raid. Casualties NIL“. In December 1916 Geoffrey proceeded on leave again, returning at the beginning of January 1917 to his unit.
In ‘The Gazette’ dated 1 February 1917 Geoffrey, “Second Lieutenant of the Special Reserves of the Bedfordshire Regiment” was “Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Douglas Haig, G.C.B., Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France, to the Secretary of State for War, for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty.” This honour was related to his heroics performed during the Battle of Le Transloy in October 1916, part of the Battle of the Somme, for which he also received the Military Cross in 1917.
On 5 February 1917, Geoffrey was admitted to hospital sick. On 20 February 1917 he was “appointed Acting Adjutant of the Second Battalion“. He was again admitted to hospital sick in April 1917, by this time he had been promoted to Lieutenant of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. He was further promoted to ‘Captain and Adjutant’ by 3 December 1917 when he proceeded on leave, returning to his unit on 21 December 1917.
Geoffrey was captured on 28 March 1918 whilst engaged in fighting during the aftermath of the Battle of Rosieres on 26/27 March 1918, becoming a German Prisoner of War. The 2nd Battalion War Diary entry for 28 March 1918 states:
“28 Mar 1918 – Rouvel Our position heavily shelled during the morning. A number of casualties. Enemy again attacked on both flanks and got into ARVILLERS on our Right and FOLIES on our Left. Enemy then got up to within 100 yards of our position when we received orders to withdraw. About 2.30 pm we withdrew but had a number of casualties owing to hostile Machine Guns and Shell fire. We formed up at MEZIERES just South of AMIEN – ROYE Road and marched through MOREUIL where we halted to give the men some food, to Billets at ROUVEL. Lt.Colonel H.S.Poyntz D.S.O. rejoined Battalion from 90th Infantry Brigade. Casualties: – 2nd Lieut.W. Pennington , 2/Lt.A.F. Aldridge , 2/Lieut.S. Courtney , 2nd Lieut.E.E. Bath wounded. Captain and Adjutant G. A. Anstee, M.C. Missing.”
On 18 April 1918, he was officially reported “missing“, then on 14 May 1918 (still rank ‘Captain and Adjutant’) Geoffrey was confirmed “Previously reported missing, now reported Prisoner of War in German Hands“. After war’s end, Geoffrey was repatriated on 1 December 1918, and on 11 December 1918, he was officially “Released Prisoner of War from Germany, arrived in England“.
Geoffrey remained in the Army as Captain of the 1st Battalion of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. They was stationed in England until 1920 when they moved to Sligo and Boyle in Ireland. During their time in Ireland they were involved in a number of engagements with the IRA including the Sheemore Ambush and the Selton Hill Ambush. They returned to England when the Irish Free State achieved independence in 1922. They were posted to Malta in 1925 (at which point Geoffrey was still Captain), to China in 1928, to India in 1929 (where we find Geoffrey a Captain at Chakrata in India in the 1936 UK Army List), and to Egypt in 1938.
In 1947 ‘Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffrey Arthur Anstee, O.B.E., M.C.‘ of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment received the O.B.E. He died in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk in December 1973.
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