Robert Warwick Anstey, a member of the Bradninch Ansteys, was born on 11 April 1893 in Topsham to parents Samuel Anstey and Emma Murphy. He was the brother of fellow Anstey Heroes Edgar Hubert Anstey, Wallace Anstey, and Ralph Stanley Anstey.
[Note: in some sources Robert’s middle name is mis-written as ‘Wannell’]
Robert attended Topsham First School from the age of two. Then by the 1911 Census he was living with his family at Wesleyan Lodge, Topsham, Devon – he was a labour carter. At some point, probably around this time, Robert also worked for a market gardener in Topsham.
Robert served during World War One as a Sapper (Service Number: 510250 and T4166) for the Royal Engineers (Attached Infantry Brigade). Unfortunately we cannot locate any enlightening documentation and all we know of his war story is that per ‘The Gazette‘ Issue Number 30768 on 27 June 1918, Robert, “[a Sapper with the] 58th (Lond). D. S. Coy R. E. (T. F.) attached to the 173rd Inf Bde (HQtrs)” was awarded the ‘Military Medal‘ for services in France.
The ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ on 28 June 1918 also reported on this achievement, noting “The Military Medal has been awarded to the following non-commissioned officers and men: 510250 Spr R. W. Anstey R. E. (Topsham)“.
We have no specific details of the heroics performed by Robert in order to receive this medal. We do know that the 58th Field Squadron of the Royal Engineers “went to Calais in mid-1917 to work on the Lines of Communication of the British Expeditionary Force. It returned to the UK in 1919 and disbanded in 1920“. As for the 173rd Infantry Brigade, with whom Robert was attached when he won his ‘Military Medal‘ in 1918 (presumably for actions performed a few weeks before it was reported in ‘The Gazette‘), they were defending against the German Spring Offensive at the time.
As such, we can conclude that Robert was also involved in this defence. Therefore we can surmise that on 21 March 1918 he would have been positioned north of the River Oise at La Fere on the Western Front, helping to hold that defensive line until the fourth day of the German Spring Offensive, at which point he was involved in a planned withdrawal back across the River Oise to rejoin the rest of 58th Division.
Apart from this, all we know is that in January 1919 when Robert’s mother died, he was unable to attend her funeral because, per the ‘Western Times‘ (21 January 1919 edition), he was “on active service and leave [was] not granted“.
In either late 1919 or early 1920, Robert was discharged from service and he returned to live with various members of his family at 19 Fore Street, Topsham. For his services he was also awarded the Victory and British War Medals.
Robert married Louisa E. Stuart (b 1889) in 1921 and they settled in Lower Budleigh, having at least two children Mona Anstey (b 1923) and Peter Robert Anstey (b 1924, an Anstey Hero who died fighting in World War Two on 10 December 1941 whilst serving aboard the Royal Navy ship ‘HMS Repulse’, which was sunk on that day by Japanese bombers).
By 1930 the family were living at Elvestone Cottage in Budleigh and they were still there in the 1939 Register, at which point Robert was a “gardener (private)“.
Robert died in 1960 in ‘Devon Central’.
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