James T. Anstey (the ‘T’ probably standing for ‘Trent’), a member of the Exminster Ansteys, was born on 26 November 1873 in Exeter, St Thomas, to parents James Stokes Anstey and Mary Ann Trent. He grew up in St Thomas and in 1891 he was a ‘tool boy’ living at Cowick Street, St Thomas with his family.
On 23 September 1895 in Bristol, then working as a labourer, James signed up for service with the Army, joining the 19th Hussars (Service Number: 4207). However just over two months later, on 27 November 1895, he was discharged “having claimed it on payment of ten pounds within three months of attestation“.
James married Catherine Wills (known as both Kate and Caroline) on 4 January 1897 at the Registry Office in St Thomas, and they had children:
- William Charles Anstey (b 1897 Exeter, known as Charlie);
- Frederick James Anstey (b 2 November 1899 Exeter – an Anstey Hero, see below);
- William John Anstey (b 1902, died in 1907 buried at Exeter St Mary Major on 27 April 1907);
- Doris Minnie May Anstey (b 7 March 1904 Exeter);
- Reginald Thomas Anstey (b 1906 Exeter, died young?);
- Ernest George Anstey (b 12 July 1908 Exeter, known as George);
- Wallace James Anstey (b 27 November 1910 Exeter, known as Jim, a lorry driver living with his parents in 1939);
- Gladys Erin Bessie Anstey (b 13 November 1913 Dartmouth); and
- Caroline Francis Anstey (b 12 December 1915 Dartmouth).
In 1901 James was a labourer living with his family at 9 Cowick Street, St Thomas and by the 1911 Census he was a gas house stoker living at 34 Quay Lane, Exeter with his family – by 1913 they had moved to Dartmouth.
Just over a year after the outbreak of World War One, on 18 August 1915 in Southampton, James once again signed up for active service – this time with the Royal Engineers as a Pioneer (Service Number: 114003). On his Attestation Form he indicated that he was a 40 year old, married, labourer living at Lion Place in Dartmouth.
He embarked for France on 24 August 1915 and appeared to remain there throughout the rest of his service. On 31 July 1917 he was transferred to the 702nd Labour Company as a Private (Service Number: 290739) then on 27 November 1918, still with 702 Labour Corps, he was admitted to ‘No 34 Casualty Clearing Station’ (which we believe was located at Solesmes in Northern France) with influenza – he was transferred to ‘AT 4‘ a day later.
James was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on demobilisation on 5 March 1919, intending to return to live with his family at 1 Ridge Hill, Dartmouth. He was discharged on 29 July 1919, and during his medical he indicated that he had ‘sciatica’ which was deemed ‘attributable to the war’, making him eligible for ‘30% disability’ pension, to be reviewed after 35 weeks.
For his services James was awarded the 1915 Star Medal, as well as the Victory and British War medals.
The 1918 Electoral Register confirms that James (with Caroline) was registered at 1 Ridgway Terrace, Ridge Hill, Dartmouth, but an “absent voter still on active military service“. By 1920 James and his family were at 10 Lower Street, Dartmouth, and they were still living there in 1930. By the 1939 Register he was a coal worker above ground, living with his wife and youngest son at 20 Clarence Hill, Dartmouth.
James died in 1951 in Newton Abbot.
Frederick James Anstey (b 1899 Exeter)
As noted above, Frederick James Anstey was born on 2 November 1899 in Exeter to parents James Anstey and Catherine Wills. He grew up in Exeter, attending Rack Street Central School in Exeter in 1903 and he was living at 34 Quay Lane, Exeter with his family in the the 1911 Census. He then moved with his parents to Dartmouth, where he was living by 1913.
Towards the end of World War One, on 30 July 1917, Frederick enlisted for service with the Royal Navy as a Boy (Service Number: J75347). On his 18th birthday, 2 November 1917, he signed up for a period of twelve years of full time service as an Oridinary Seaman (and later Able Seaman). A few weeks later on 23 November 1917, whilst serving on HMS Valiant, he appears in the ship’s medical records as having a ‘sore throat’.
He served on HMS Valiant throughout the rest of the conflict and then at war’s end he was transferred to HMS Idaho (an Auxiliary Patrol base at Milford Haven, Wales). The 1920 ‘Absent Voters List’ confirms that he was on HMS Valiant, registered at 1 Ridgeway Terrace, Ridge Hill – probably this document is slightly out of date because in the 1920 Electoral Register he was registered with his parents at 10 Lower Street, Dartmouth as an “absent voter still on active military service“.
For his services, Frederick was granted a war gratuity.
The 1925 Electoral Register confirms that he was still with the Royal Navy, registered at 10 Lower Street “J75347 A. B. HMS ‘Maidstone’“, and he continued to serve with them until at least the outset of World War Two in 1939, at which time “N15341/44 informs man he is required to continue serving in the Royal Navy until the end of the war” (his Service Number was still ‘J75347’). He served on HMS Drakel in early 1939 and HMS Alicia from late 1939 until 1941. For his services he received a “War Gratuity Paid HMS Dartmouth No 166 – 9 Coombe Road, Dartmouth [presumably his address at the time].“
Frederick may well have married Doris M. Sanders in 1940 in Bideford, though we seek confirmation of that. It is likely that in 1945 he was the steersman of a River Dart steamer in Dartmouth.
He died in 1976 in Torbay, Devon – we do not know if he had any children.
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