Reginald James Anstey, known as Reg, a member of the Kennford Ansteys, was born on 9 July 1892 in North Tawton to parents Harry Anstey and Mary Jane Miflin, baptised in Heavitree on 7 August 1892. He was brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Douglas Harry Anstey; Frank Gerald Anstey; and Elsie Winnifred Anstey, growing up at Fore Street, North Tawton. By the 1911 Census he was living with his family at Holly House, North Tawton, working as a “woollen factory operative“.
Very early in World War One, on 26 February 1915, Reg expressed his willingness to join the Territorial Force. Two weeks later, on 4 March 1915, he formally enlisted with the Army in North Tawton. On his Attestation Form he described himself as an unmarried gardener and Church of England by religion. He was initially posted as a Gunner to the ‘3rd Devon Battery’ Royal Field Artillery (Service Number: 1567).
Three months later on 24 July 1915, Reg married Lucy Emma White at the Parish Church in North Tawton; on the marriage register he wrote that he was already a “soldier living in Exeter” – they had two daughters Margery G. Anstey (b 1916) and Olive M. Anstey (b 1918).
On 29 January 1916 Reg was mustered as a Driver for the Royal Horse Artillery 3/4th Wessex Depot Brigade (Depot Ammunition Column), however a couple of months later, on 25 March 1916 at Rolleston Camp, he was discharged. The cause of discharge was “sickness” under “King’s Regulations Paragraph 392 (xvi)“, meaning he was released on account of being “permanently physically unfit due to his sickness“. Medical Reports at the time of his discharge noted “Failing eyesight, atrophy and degeneration of optic nerve. Dates from early years. Can’t distinguish the largest type at 12ft. No report on medical history sheet. It is likely to increase. Eye specialist at Fargo Hospital reports no improvement with glasses“.
This disability was deemed “not the result of his Army service“, and indeed the ‘Pensions Appeal Tribunal’ disallowed his claim for a disability pension on 20 August 1919, however Reg was issued the Silver War Badge on 17 August 1917.
During his service, which was performed entirely in England with no overseas service, his military character had been deemed “very good – a steady, sober and reliable man“.
After his discharge, Reg and Lucy moved in to 9 Gordon Place in Heavitree, where they continued to live throughout the 1920s. Reg attended his mother’s funeral in 1930 in North Tawton, and by the 1939 Register he and his wife were living at 12 The Bungalow Townsends Gardens, 125a Sidwell Street, Exeter, where he was a builder’s labourer.
Reg died on 6 December 1954 in Exeter. He was buried in the family grave at North Tawton Cemetery, North Tawton – gravestone inscription “Also of Reginald James Anstey who fell asleep Dec 6 1954 aged 62 years Reunited“.
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