William Robert Anstey (b 1892)

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

William Robert Anstey, a member of a currently unknown sub-branch, was born on 22 September 1892 in Georgetown, British Guiana to parents Captain John Anstey, a sailor of Georgetown, British Guiana and Joanna Bentham (see Research Note below).

William became a sailor based at Georgetown. For example in 1915 he was a member of the crew of the ship ‘Easington‘, an “Able Seaman; age, 21; place of birth, British Guiana; previous ship, Laiveng?

On 31 January 1916 in Amhurst/Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada, as World War One was raging, William signed up for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Private (Service Number: 716067). On his Attestation Paper he noted that:

  • His present address was Georgetown, Guiana;
  • His next of kin was his father John Anstey living at 16 Gould Street, Georgetown;
  • His mother was deceased by June 1916;
  • His date of birth was 22 September 1892;
  • He was an unmarried sailor (some sources say ‘farmer’);
  • He was Roman Catholic;

William was posted initially with the 106th ‘Overseas’ Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. On 15 July 1916 he embarked on the ‘SS Empress‘ at Halifax, Nova Scotia, disembarking in Liverpool on 25 July 1916. On 5 October 1916 he was transferred to the 48th Battalion and on 4 February 1917 he was admitted to hospital in England for 17 days with gonorrhoea. At the same time he was transferred to the ’26th C. R. Battalion (Nova Scotia)’.

In February 1917 William was transferred to ‘3rd Canadian Labour Battalion’, proceeding overseas with them “for service in [France] with 3rd C. R. B.” on 3 April 1917. In September 1917 he was transferred to the ‘2nd Canadian Division Employment Company’. At the end of June 1918 he was invalided (“evacuated with synovitis left knee“) back to England, having an operation at “4 C. G. H.” in Basingstoke on 28 June 1918 and thence posted to the General Depot in Shorncliffe.

William returned to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on 22 November 1918 aboard the ship ‘Aquitania‘, intending to live in Amherst, Nova Scotia. He was discharged on 24 December 1918 by reason of being “medically unfit with flat feet and synovitis left knee“.

We can garner more details of William’s war story from various medical reports. One written on 27 September 1918 at St Martin’s Plain near Folkestone states that he “Enlisted January 1916 with 106th Battalion. Came to England July 1916. His Battalion was broken up and he was transferred to a labour battalion on account of flat feet. Went to France April 1917 returned July 1918 with synovitis of left knee. In France 15 months, in hospital ‘3 C C S 20 June 1918′; ’65 General Hospital 23 June 1918’; and ‘No 6 General Hospital 25 June 1918’“.

Another report adds “Sometime in July 1917 he was struck on outer side of left knee by the end of a steel rail. It was painful but he carried on. About 2 weeks after he noticed a lump on the side of the knee. This lump slowly increased in size and was painful. Finally became so painful he was sent to hospital“. Yet another report adds “Complains of pains and weakness in left knee and right foot, unable to do route marches or carry on for any length of time“.

After returning to Canada, William, by now a labourer, married Wilhelmina Lane John (b 1889) on 18 May 1922 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The marriage certificate confirms that:

  • his full name was William Robert Anstey;
  • his parents were John Anstey and Joanna Bentham;
  • his father was born in England;
  • he was living at 200 Creighton Street, Halifax;
  • he was aged 29 and born in British Guiana;
  • Mrs Mabel Bowen, also living at 200 Creighton Street, Halifax, was a witness

We do not find any children of this marriage. William died on 10 June 1935, living at 185 Creighton Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia. His death certificate states that his “racial origin” was “African“; that he was an unemployed chauffeur; that he was married to Wilhelmina; that he had been in the province for 25 years; that his father was also born in British Guiana; and that the cause of death was “aortic aneurysm” (on his death certificate his father was listed as “Wm Anstey” – clearly a mistake).

William was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia – the inscription on his gravestone reads “Private William Anstey 3rd Labour Battalion C. E. F. 10 June 1935 Rest In Peace“.

Anybody who would like to add anything to this biography, or can connect this family to the wider Anstey pedigree, please contact us at research@theansteystory.com.

Research Note: Captain John Anstey was born in England in 1866 or 1867. He married Joanna (or Jessie E.) Bentham (b c1881?? Essequibo – if this year of birth is correct she must have been a subsequent wife), who had died by 1916. In 1917 John Anstey was a seaman heading for British Guiana aboard the ship ‘Arakaka‘ “aged 51” – he was one of only two people on board; the other being Thomas Bennet Wilson MacQuade, a Government Medical Officer – they both intended to reside in British Guiana. John Anstey of Queenstown, Essequebo is mentioned in 1915 ‘The Official Gazette of British Guiana, Volume 40, Part 1‘ regarding a first mortgage on various properties.

%d bloggers like this: