George Anstee, a member of the Edlesborough Anstees, was born in early 1893 in Writtle to parents George Frederick William Anstee and Alice Ellen Collicot, baptised on 26 May 1893 in Writtle. He was brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Edward Curtis Anstee; Hugh Austin Anstee; and Richard Collicot Anstee, growing up living at The Green, Writtle. By the 1911 Census George was an unmarried butcher, boarding at Prospect House Ongar, Chipping Ongar.
Right at the outbreak of World War One, in August 1914, George volunteered for active service, first with the Hussars but soon he was transferred to the Royal Fusiliers (City Of London Regiment) as a Private (Service Number: GS/16401). Despite the fact that we cannot locate his Service Records, we can follow his war story and unfortunate demise through various newspaper reports.
[Note: It is somewhat unclear precisely with which battalions of the Royal Fusiliers George fought – some sources say 12th Battalion, others say 4th Battalion and yet others say he was initially with the 9th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (he could well have fought alongside all three). However it is clear that by 1917 he was with the 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City Of London Regiment).]
We know that George first embarked for France on 6 July 1915, fighting on the Western Front in both France and later Belgium. The ‘Essex Newsman‘ on 15 April 1916 reported “Mr F. W. Anstee, a member of the Writtle Parish Council, has received information that his son, Private G. Anstee, Royal Fusiliers, was wounded on March 28“. This was confirmed by the Casualty List issued by the War Office on 18 April 1916, indicating that George was “wounded” and entitled to wear a ‘wound stripe’. This injury, which seems not to have been serious, occurred at St Eloi near Ypres.
A mere two months later, on 17 June 1916, George was again listed as “wounded” on the Casualty List issued by the War Office, again entitled to wear a ‘wound stripe’. This was confirmed in the ‘Essex Newsman‘ on 22 July 1916 where it noted “Pte. George Anstee, native of Writtle, has been wounded (for the second time this year), and is now in hospital in England.” After his recovery George rejoined the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City Of London Regiment) on the Western Front.
The next we hear of George is his demise. The ‘Essex Newsman‘ on 11 August 1917 reported “Pt Geo. Anstee. Royal Fusiliers, son of Mr. and Mrs. G. F. W. Anstee, Writtle Green, was shot through the neck during the advance of July 31st, and died in hospital at Deekebusch [Dikkebus] the same day. Deceased joined the Hussars in August 1914 but was transferred to the Royal Fusiliers and crossed over to France in July 1915. He was wounded at St Elor in March 1916, and again at Mamely Wood in the following July. Three of deceased’s brothers are on active service“. The ‘Chelmsford Chronicle‘ on 28 September 1917 also reported the “Today’s Casualty List…Died of Wounds…R. Fus – Anstee G. Writtle“.
From the above reports, combined with the Battalion Diary, it is clear that George left the front line trenches near Ypres and went into battle at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, right at the outset of the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, which was the opening salvo of the Battle of Passchendaele. During that initial day of fighting, he was shot through the neck and died a few hours later.
George was buried at the ‘Huts Cemetery’ near Dikkebus in West Flanders, Belgium Plot 1 Row B Grave 1. “Died 01 August 1917 Age 24 years old Son of George Frederick William and Alice Ellen Anstee, of Heroffs, Writtle Green. Chelmsford. Personal Inscription BUT YE SHALL DIE LIKE MEN AND FALL LIKE ONE OF THE PRINCES PSALM 82“
For his services, George was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, as well as the British War and Victory medals. He is also commemorated on the Writtle War Memorial, as well as the Writtle Bell Ringers Roll of Honour, where the Bells of Writtle were most recently rung in his memory on 27 August 2017.
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