Thomas Cornelius Anstee, (registered at birth as ‘Cornelius Thomas Anstee’), a member of the Potsgrove Anstees, was born on 7 October 1883 in Portsea near Portsmouth to parents Alfred Ernest Anstee and Mary Elizabeth Clark. He was brother to fellow Anstey Hero Alfred Roy Anstee. His father died when he was a young boy so by the 1891 Census Thomas was living with his mother and stepfather James Edward Cobden in Portsea.
In c1904 Thomas emigrated to Canada (some sources say 1900, others 1910). Then in 1915 he crossed into Vermont, America intending to visit Seattle, Washington – on his Arrival Form he noted that he was a “blacksmith living at 1828 Pender? H. E.?, Vancouver” with his mother Mary E. Cobham. A year later in the 1916 Canada Census, he was unmarried and still living with his mother Mary Elizabeth Cobden and brother Reuben at 37 Edmonton West, Alberta, Canada.
On 22 March 1916, as World War One was raging, Thomas signed up for active service in Edmonton with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. On his Attestation Form he noted that he was a blacksmith born in Portsmouth; that his next of kin was his mother Mary E. Cobham; that he was Church of England; and that he was living in Edson, Alberta. On his Medical Form it was noted that he was “fit but has a defective sight without glasses“.
Thomas was posted to 218th Overseas Battalion (Irish Guards) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Private (Service Number: 279344). However just a few weeks later on 2 May 1916 he was discharged as “medically unfit (eyesight)“, with character deemed “good“.
Somewhat bizarrely, on 15 December 1917 Thomas was notified that he was again to be called up for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, this time under the Military Service Act 1917. On the ‘Particulars of Recruit’ form he again confirmed that he was an unmarried blacksmith, still living at Edson with his mother; but now with “1 month [military experience] in the 218th Battalion, Edmonton“. He presented himself at Calgary, Altanta on 17 January 1918 and was posted to the 1st Depot Battalion of the C. E. F. as a Private (Service Number: 3206165).
Thomas embarked for England on 24 March 1918, aboard the ship ‘Scandinavian‘ arriving in England on 3 April 1918, then on 8 April 1918 he was transferred to the 21st Canadian Reserve Battalion (Alberta) C. E. F.
He served most of 1918 in Bramshott, Hampshire. On 8 July 1918 he was “discharged from service as being permanently unfit” – presumably after that point he served in an administrative capacity in Bramshott.
He was further deemed “not fit for overseas service [in continental Europe]” by the ‘No 12 Canadian General Hospital‘ in Hampshire on 21 November 1918. A ‘Special Report‘ added that “his service in the Army has not aggravated his condition – he should never have left Canada“.
Thomas returned to Canada on 13 June 1919 aboard the ship ‘HMT Aquitania‘, disembarking in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 20 June 1919. He was discharged on 25 June 1919 at Dispersal Station ‘S’, intending to once again live in Edson.
By the 1926 Canada Census Thomas was still unmarried, living with his brothers and mother at 11th Avenue East Block 80, Peace River North, Alberta.
As far as we know, Thomas never married. He died in 1964, buried at Blue Ridge Cemetery Blue Ridge, Whitecourt Census Division, Alberta, gravestone inscription “Thomas Anstee 1884-1964“.
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