John Anstey (b 1887 Woolwich)

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Many thanks to Julia for her help with this biography.

John Anstey, a member of the Foleshill Anstys, was born in Woolwich, Kent on 11 December 1887 to parents Edward Joseph Anstey and Clara Noall. He was brother and half brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Arthur Anstey and Frederick Edward Anstey respectively.

At some point, presumably in his early adulthood in c1907 or so, John decided to emigrate to Canada. We know this because he signed up for active service right at the beginning of World War One on 14 August 1914 at North Battleford, Saskatchewan in Canada.

[Note: it is possible that John emigrated in 1909 with his brother Percy John Anstey, who we know entered Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence, New York, United States from Canada in 1909 – though Percy later returned to England]

According to his Attestation Form, at the time of his signing up in August 1914, John was an Asylum Nurse/Laundry Man (depending on source) at the ‘Hospital for Insane’ in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in Canada; he was religion ‘Church of England’; and he was married to Elsie Anstey (though his wife was noted as being “Mrs Alice Anstey” on one form). His residence at this time was also North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and John also confirmed that his place of birth was “Woolwich, England“.

On 25 September 1914 John arrived in in Valcartier, Quebec, Canada where his training began, attending C. A. M. C. Training School. He was placed with the 3rd Field Ambulance, 1st Battalion Canadian Contingent, Canadian Army Medical Corps, part of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, as a Private (Service Number: 33270 – he was also part of “16 CFA CAMC” at some point). Then on 14 October 1914 John sailed to England from Quebec on ‘SS Cassandra‘.

On around 24 January 1915 whilst on Salisbury Plains, John was “using vaseline for his eyes under N. C. ‘s direction. This vaseline became infected through another man who was concealing gonorrhoea using the same vaseline.” John “developed an opthalmia of the left eye, being infected through no fault of his own, as far as we could understand upon the most rigid investigation, by a private of the 3rd Field Ambulance, who was concealing gonorrhoea and who was punished. [John] was treated by our own orderlies in our Hospital at Clive House Tidworth until the unit left for France about Feb 8 1915 when he [John] was left in the charge of the officer taking over the hospital…[John] was subsequently treated at the Royal London Opthalmic Hospital, Moorfields, London“.

John was discharged from hospital on 22 March 1915 as an outpatient, and for at least part of the next few months he recuperated at the home of his brother Percy John Anstey in Tidal Basin, London.

[Note: There is a card in John’s military papers which confirms this – the card, which is undated, gives his “latest address” as “57 Boyd Road, Tidal Basin, London, England” which is the exact same address as that which we know his brother Percy John Anstey was living in both 1917 and 1925. At some point, presumably around the same time, John was also contactable at “46 Park Street, Islington, London“]

In September 1915 John was at the C. A. M. C. Training Centre in Sandgate performing “light work“, then in November 1915 at Shorncliffe in Kent the Medical Board recommended that John be “discharged as permanently unfit“, being effectively “blind in one eye“. On 26 November 1915 John was “struck off strength on discharge to Canada“, returning to Canada on the ship ‘SS Scandinavian‘.

After arriving back in Canada in December 1915, the Medical Board noted that John had a “cataract following G. C. Opthalmia. Present condition – find he is suffering from effects of gonorrhoeal optholmia of left eye innocently acquired from a gonorrhoeal patienthe had an operation on the eye needlingsays his eye burst out at one time allowing some fluid to escape, has practically no sight in this eye and the prognosis by eye specialist as far as any future function is gloomy“. They also noted that John had been “provided with a glass eye, after a total of six operations.”

John was at Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg in January 1916 and then sent to the Casualty Clearing Depot from February 1916 to March 1916. He was discharged on 28 April 1916 in Winnipeg and dropped off at his previous place of work in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He was deemed “permanently unfit for further military service (cataract following G. C. Opthalmia through no fault of his own)“. The disability was deemed to be “on field service” and “on duty“.

John received his “badge” on 16 October 1916; he was also granted a pension for his services.

In the 1921 Canadian Census, John’s wife Elsie was a Nurse/Laundress “aged 28 born in England” at the Provincial Mental Hospital, Ponoka, Edmonton, Strathcona, Alberta – she also indicated that she first arrived in Canada in 1905 and her religion was “Baptist“. John himself died on 2 June 1925; we are unsure precisely where – neither do we know if there were any children from John and Elsie’s marriage.

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