Thomas Reginald Anstey, known as Tom, a member of the Coventry Ansteys (Hampton in Arden sub-branch) was born in West Bromwich in 1890 to parents John Anstey Junior and Fanny Louisa Snape; he was educated at Five Ways Grammar School in Birmingham. By the time of the 1911 Census, Tom was still living in West Bromwich at 30 Beeches Road with his parents; he was a railway clerk at the Goods Department in Hockley.
We are unable to locate Tom’s wartime Service Record, but can accurately piece together his World War One story from other sources. We know that he volunteered for active service right at the beginning of the war, joining the ‘Birmingham Pals‘ Battalions in September 1914 as a Private (Service Number: 317), attached to the 15th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
[Note: The 15th Battalion (2nd Birmingham) was initially attached to 95th Brigade, 32nd Division, then on 28 December 1915 it was transferred to 14th Brigade, 5th Division. It was again transferred, to 13th Brigade, 5th Division, on 14 January 1916]
All three of the ‘Birmingham Pals‘ battalions were deployed to the Western Front in France on 21 November 1915 (confirmed on Tom’s ‘Medal Index Card’). The main action that Tom faced began on 1 July 1916, the date on which the lengthy Battle of the Somme commenced.
One of the battles in the Second Phase of the Battle of the Somme was the Battle of Guillemont village in Northern France, which began on 3 September 1916 and was described thus “A general attack on the front being planned for 12.15pm on 3rd September , it was decided that prior to the main attack, 13th Infantry Brigade would capture Falfemont Farm as it covered the approach to Combles for the French attacking on the right. Moving off at 09.00am, 14th Royal Warwickshire Regiment on the left, 2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers on the right, the whole front was met by a hail of machine-gun fire from the farm and halted with very heavy casualties without coming close to it. 1st Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) and 15th Royal Warwickshire Regiment relieving the survivors of the two lead battalions, they also could do little but hold position whilst 1st Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and 12th Gloucestershire Regiment, did make a successful advance east of Guillemont during the main attack, reaching the Ginchy to Maurepas road, north of Wedge Wood.”
Tom was “killed in action” on that day, 3 September 1916, during the Battle of Guillemont. His death was reported in the ‘Birmingham Daily Post‘ newspaper on 27 September 1916 where it stated “Casualties Among Local Men. The following particulars of local men killed have been supplied by friends….Private T. R. Anstey, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, has been killed in action. His parents reside at 30 Beeches Road, West Bromwich. Private Anstey, who was 26 years of age, was educated at Five Ways Grammar School, and prior to joining the army in September, 1914, was a clerk in the service of the Great Western Railway Company at Hockley goods depot.“
Tom was buried in Thiepval in France, grave reference “Pier and Face 9 A 9 B and 10 B.” – he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. For his services, Tom was awarded the British War, Victory and 1914/15 Star Medals. His demise was mentioned in “St Paul’s Cathedral Order of Service 1919“, as well as ‘Great Western Railway staff magazine 1916/11/257‘ where a photo of him appears (reference: ‘1917/02/39’). Tom is also commemorated at St Philip’s Church in West Bromwich, reference “WW1 (WMR 48079)“, as well as on a War Memorial Plaque located in the main school hall of Five Ways School in Birmingham.
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