Sidney Henry Anstey, a member of the Chatham Ansteys, was born in 1891 in Sheerness, Kent to parents James Anstey and Sarah Ellen Hounsell. His father died when he was a young child and it is somewhat unclear where Sidney grew up, but by the time of the 1911 Census he had moved to Aston Manor in Warwickshire (with numerous members of his family following shortly after) where he was a boarder and a “salesman, born in Sheerness“.
We do not possess Sidney’s World War One Service Records, but we can tell his war story in great detail via numerous reports mentioning him and his regiment. According to the ‘Birmingham Daily Post‘ (4 January 1917 edition), Sidney “a son of Mrs Anstey, 257 Albert Road, Aston… joined the Territorials in 1908 and at the outbreak of war was a sergeant… He was formerly employed at Newbury’s Birmingham“.
Sidney was a Sergeant attached to the 8th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Territorial Force (Soldier Number: 986) based at Aston Barracks, Aston Manor, Birmingham. The regiment had just departed for their annual summer camp when World War One broke out in August 1914, so they immediately mobilised for war service in Chelmsford and commenced training. The regiment proceeded to France, from Southampton, landing at le Havre, France on 22nd March 1915.
Sidney received his commission (to 2nd Lieutenant) with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 22 January 1916. He was wounded in action on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, whilst fighting in Mailly Maillet during the assault on the Quadrilateral (Heidenkopf). The ‘Birmingham Daily Gazette‘ on 11 July 1916 reported “Second Lieutenant S. H. Anstey, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who has been wounded in action, is a son of Mrs Anstey, 257 Albert Road, Aston. He was in the Territorials for several years before the war, and he received his commission last January“.
In fact Sidney was extremely fortunate to have only been slightly wounded on that first day of the Battle of the Somme. According to a PhD thesis by Robert David Williams “At most, 800 men [of the 1,035 men in the 8th Battalion] went into battle [on 1 July 1916]. It is believed that 588 of these became casualties… One of the few officers left, Second Lieutenant Anstey, wrote to the father of Second Lieutenant Brettell, who was the only Battalion officer to be taken prisoner that day, stating ‘As you say our regiment was roughly handled but thank god we did our duty and have made a name in the British Army which will never be forgotten. Please excuse this short work, reorganising the battalion is not an easy job and takes lots of time.’”
A couple of months later, the ‘Coventry Standard‘ newspaper noted that “Second Lieutenant S. H. Anstey was confirmed in his rank August 22 1916“, so presumably that is the date on which Sidney had fully recovered from his wounds.
On 1 February 1917, according to the ‘Gazette‘ issue 29890 (page 221), Sidney (2nd Lieutenant) was “Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Douglas Haig, G.C.B., Commander-in-Chief of the British Armies in France, to the Secretary of State for War, for distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty [in France]“, presumably for his heroics during the Battle of the Somme in July 1916.
At some point, likely 23 July 1917, Sidney (a Lieutenant, 8th Battalion (Territorial) (r), Special Reserve of Officers) became Acting Captain of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment Labour Corps. Just over a month later, the ‘Birmingham Daily Post‘ on 28 August 1917 reported “Acting Captain S. H. Anstey, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, has been severely wounded, and is now in hospital in London. He is the son of Mrs. Anstey, 257, Albert Road, Aston. He was slightly wounded on July 1 of last year, but did not leave his battalion, with which he has been on service for two-and-a-half years. He has been mentioned in despatches.“
Sidney “relinquished his acting rank of Captain on 17 August 1917“, so presumably that was the day he was severely wounded in action. From this, we can deduce that he fought in the 16-18 August 1917 Battle of Langemarck, the second major Allied attack of the Third Battle of Ypres (aka the Battle of Passchendaele), reports of which state “The attack succeeded in the north, from Langemarck to Drie Grachten (Three Canals) but early advances in the south, on the Gheluvelt Plateau, were forced back by powerful German counter-attacks. The course of the battle was hampered by the atrocious weather and ground conditions which affected the British attack through low-lying areas that had been heavily bombed.“
As a result of his wounds, Sidney was entitled to wear a “Wound Stripe” per War Office Daily List No. 5350 29 August 1917. For his services, Sidney was awarded the 1914/15 Star, Victory and British War Medals. We have unsourced evidence that Sidney later became a Major, and that he also may have been awarded “75th Brigade Football Medal & 25th Division Football Medal“.
After the war ended, Sidney returned to live at Albert Road, Aston, where in the 1921 Electoral Register he was living with Annie Mary Anstey and two of his brothers, Edward Anstey and Stanley Anstey. By the 1928 Electoral Register, his mother Sarah Ellen Anstey had reappeared, living with him at Albert Road, Aston.
It is currently unclear whether Sidney married or had children; he died in 1956 in Birmingham, “aged 65“.
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