Henry Anstey (also known as Harry), a member of the Stoke Gifford Ansteys, was born in Falfield, South Gloucestershire in 1887 to parents Alfred Henry Williams Anstey and Mary Louisa Jenner. He was the elder brother of Alfred Richard William Anstey, known as Dick, who also fought in World War One.
Henry attended Thornbury Grammar School as a child. In 1911, he married Dorothy Lydia Joslen in Falfield, and they had a daughter together called Joy; they lived at Elm Tree Farm in Tortworth. At the outbreak of World War One, Henry joined the Mechanical Transport; he was promoted to Sergeant Major and transferred to the Scotch Regiment, fighting in the Battle of the Somme. Henry was later serving as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the ‘7th Rifle Brigade’ when he was killed in action on 11 April 1917 at the Battle of Arras. A fellow officer wrote a letter to Henry’s widow, which reads:
“Dear Mrs Anstey:- it is with very deepest regret that I have to write this letter; you will have received by now news from the War Office of your husband’s death. He was in my company and we were always very friendly and I cannot tell you how deeply I sympathise with you in your loss. I am pleased to be able to tell you that he was killed instantaneously, which is one great mercy, though I did not see him after his death. It was a machine gun bullet. One thing I feel sure will make you feel proud and in some ways alleviate the suffering is that he did his duty nobly and had behaved with the utmost coolness throughout the Battle of Arras in which we were taking part. Up to yesterday (Friday) the news had not been officially confirmed and the War Office, when applied to, stated that the casualty had not been reported. Lieut Anstey is so well known and so extremely popular in the district that the news of his reported death has caused profound gloom to prevail and the utmost sympathy is felt for the relatives in their sore trial.”
Henry was buried at, and is commemorated on, the Tigris Lane Cemetery Memorial at Wancourt, Pas de Calais. He is also commemorated on the Thornbury Grammar School War Memorial. There is also a plaque at St Leonard’s Church in Tortworth, unveiled on 10 January 1921 by his daughter Joy, which states:
“To the Glory of God and in the Memory of Henry the Dearly-Loved elder son of A. H. W. & M. L. ANSTEY also Husband of D. L. ANSTEY 2nd Lieutenant 7th Battalion Rifle Brigade Killed in Action at the Battle of Arras April 11 1917 aged 29 years.”
On the wall next to his memorial in the church appears to be the original grave marker placed on his grave in France.
The ‘Western Daily Press‘ newspaper reported on the 10 January 1921 event, stating “TORTWORTH MEMORIAL: Berkeley Vicar And The Men Who Returned. There was a large congregation at Tortworth Parish Church yesterday morning, when the tablet erected by the parishioners in memory of the local men who fell in the late war was unveiled and dedicated. A considerable number of relatives of the deceased men were present, also a contingent of ex-Service men, in charge of Mr Hedley Perrett, D.C.M. The Rev. E. R. Mosley (rector) conducted a deeply impressive service. The tablet, which adorns the south wall of the church, is of Hopton Wood stone. The inscription reads:- “In memory of those from this parish who gave their lives in the great war, 1914-1918. Pte. Arthur Love, 10th Gloucesters; Lance-Corpl. William Butler, 4th Gloucesters; Pte. Francis W. Morris, 2/4th Royal Berks; 2nd Lieut. Henry Anstey, 7th Rifle Brigade; Capt. Reginald G. Smith, 47th Canadians; Private E. James Lainchbury, 2/5th Norfolks; Pte. W. Ewart Organ, 2/6th Gloucesters; Pte. Alfred H. Clark, Machine Gun Corps; Pte. Wm. Neal, 8th K.O.R. Lancasters; Pte. Henry Dickenson, 1/7th Royal Warwicks; Lieut-Commander Arthur Smith, R.N.R. May their souls rest in peace. Amen.” Mr C Atchley, of Clifton, was the designer, and Mr H Tyley, of Bristol, had the contract. The cost was met by public subscriptions, a representative committee, with the Rev. E. R. Mosley as chairman, and Mr E. A. Smith, as treasurer and secretary, having charge of the arrangements. Two children, whose respective father’s names appear on the tablet, performed the unveiling ceremony. These were Miss Joy Anstey and Master Willie Lainchbury. The dedication was pronounced by the Rev. H. C. Armour, vicar of Berkeley, who afterwards preached an impressive address from the text, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.” While they were honouring the dead, he said, they must not forget those who had returned. It made his blood boil, he concluded to see these brave men reduced to begging in Bristol streets, and to read of V.C.s supporting themselves by playing barrel-organs in London. If ever England had cause to be ashamed it was of this state of affairs. Special hymns sung during the service included “O Valiant Hearts who to your glory came” and the proceedings concluded with the National Anthem and the sounding of the “Last Post” and the “Reveille” by Bugler Bennett, of Kingswood.“
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