George James Anstey (b 1882)

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

See ‘Anstey: A Complete History From the Norman Invasion to World War One‘ for much more on the Stoke Gifford Ansteys. In addition to biographies of various Anstey individuals who make up this sub-branch, the book contains a plethora of Anstey research and statistics, including an analysis of how the Stoke Gifford Ansteys fit into the pedigree descendent from Hubert de Anesti, the 12th century originator of the ‘Anstey’ surname.

SG 29. George James Anstey: My great grandfather, he was born in Cardiff on 10 March 1882 (registered as James George Anstey but known as George) to parents Thomas Henry Anstey (SG 21) and Eliza Morse. He was the brother of Tom (SG 30), one of the chief researchers of this Anstey project, as well as William Henry Anstey (SG 28) and Edward Archibald Anstey (SG 31) – they were (and still are) collectively known as the ‘Four Brothers’ by family.

His mother Eliza died in 1888 when he was a young boy, so he was brought up by his father, living in Cairns Street, Cardiff. By the late 1890s, he had got a job with the ‘Western Mail‘ newspaper in Cardiff, from which he resigned in early 1901 to join the South African Constabulary (SAC) in order to fight in the latter stages of the Second Boer War.

On 25 March 1901, just before he left for South Africa, a ‘Smoking Concert’ was held at the Gower Hotel in Cardiff in his honour by his friends at the St Teilo’s Institute in Cardiff – the ‘Evening Express’ on 26 March 1901 reported “‘Smoker’ at Cardiff. A smoking concert was held at the Gower Hotel, Cathays, Cardiff, last night, on the occasion of the departure for South Africa of Trooper George Anstey for Baden-Powell’s Police. A presentation was made to him by the friends of St. Teilo’s Institute. The recipient briefly responded. During the evening songs were rendered by members of the society.

Then two days later on 27 March 1901, he embarked for Cape Town in South Africa from Southampton aboard the ‘Morayshire’ ship, with another thousand or so newly recruited members of the SAC (his details were ‘SAC ‘A’ Division, Regimental Number 1343, 15 Troop, 4 Squad, 3 Section’).

A family anecdote relayed by George was that during the Second Boer War he was “sitting on his horse with a comrade a couple of yards away on the veldt when a shot rang out and the other chap fell off dead”. A photo of him on his horse taken in c1902 during the Second Boer War can be seen on the homepage of this Anstey Project website.

In 1902 he wrote to Aunt Kate (SG 22) – “Buffalo Hack March 23 1902. My Dear Aunt Kate, I should have written before but I have had a touch of fever and had to live on milk diet for about 10 days and you bet I didn’t feel like writing then. I could have eaten anything from a pigeon egg up to an ox. I didn’t go into Polchefstroom Hospital as it was full. They are getting an average of one death per day from fever. Two of our fellows have died there during the last fortnight – Young – a fellow who has only been in the country a couple of months and Constable, one of the old hands, he was married and had two children. There are heaps of Boers quite close here and we had reinforcements sent out from Polchefstroom to help us in case of attack. Three of our fellows went out with a heliograph to try and get in touch with one of the British columns that are about the D.R.C. They were chased by Boers and one fellow had a bullet through his elbow joint and one was captured and after the Boers had taken his hat and boots from him they let him loose among the hills. The other fellow got away also wounded man. I hear Lord Methuen? Is dead. Died from wounds I believe. Very hard lines eh! There seems to be a large move towards Klerksdorp. I expect that de Wet is hanging around there. We were down the Free State just before I went sick and came in touch with a large party of Boers and we had to retire across Vaal rather quickly. The sling of my rifle broke just as I was crossing and of course the rifle fell into the river but ‘fer umble’? was after it up to the neck and got it and got on my nag again and got over before Johnny B arrived. They passed along near the drift. They seemed to be a lot of leaders with an escort of about 30. We have heard that it was De Wet with some other big pots and they were going or coming to a meeting. It will be a good thing if peace is declared before the winter which is close hand, I pity the poor Burgher sleeping as some of them will have to sleep with scarcely any clothing. This is a queer country. ?? get a slap on the ear with a clap of thunder and before one can move a heavy rainstorm wets one through and everything is clear again. But when it rains well – it rains and I am A1 now so will conclude with best love from your affectionate nephew George (please address my letters to Polchefstrrom instead Klerksdorp now)

We are fortunate to have notes made by him in January 1903 during a three week trek near Kocksoord in South Africa, the aim of which was both to round up Boer guerillas and survey and report on the situation on the ground in the aftermath of the conflict. The transcription of his notes is:

Kocksoord January 13th 1903

50 of us left here this morning under Capt. Wood and Lt Barton at 6am and proceeded toward Ventersdorp. We did not take any food on our horses and as the journey progressed wished that we had for we did not strike water for 10 hours or about 30 miles and one can imagine we were rather pleased when we saw a dark green line in the distance which turned out to be the Mooi river as we expected. When we got there our horses put their noses well under the water. Our skipper had already been there and drank his fill and when the men arrived would not let them dismount to drink although that would not make any difference to me as I just lowered my water bottle and it filled itself, but all the same it was a rather shabby trick on Wood’s part after the fellows trekking all day without water or food. In fact it is worse trekking during peace than when war was on as then one would make his own arrangement to a certain extent. He kept us grooming our horses for about an hour and then we had the time to ourselves but it was beginning to get dark. This place was Klerkskraal and a Dutch friend of mine JH Meithling lived here but at the time was in Ventersdorp. I believe we left K. next morning 5:30 am and about 10 halted at a native location or plad Schoolplaats and after about one hour stay proceeded Ventersdorp which we reached about 1 pm. V. is a rather pretty place of perhaps 200 inhabitants. There is an artistic sort of bridge at the entrance which certainly looks well. Nbr 7 Troop SAC are stationed here and seem to have a good time by their own account. We stayed here for one day Thursday and Meithling came round saw us as he had just come up from Cape Town where he had been on his honeymoon. We left next morning at 5.30 and after a rather pleasant days riding along Brak Spruit (there are houses all along at distances of perhaps 100 yards more or less right up to where we left the spruit [small stream] (about 8 miles from Klerksdorp on our left). We had some decent bathing in the Brak Spruit as it was a swift running current and we were able to float down in fine style, but were quite unable to swim against the current. We left here at 5.30 next morning for Haartebeestfontein and my squad were advance guard so we passed another pleasant journey getting into ‘H’ about 10am. This place is in a very bad state and there are about 30 houses and a fine Church. All of them are knocked all to pieces. Just a few miles from here, north Kebunch[?] captured 6 guns from Deloney which D. had captured a few days previously from Von Donop [a famous Colonel] near here (east). There was plenty of fighting around here. We are leaving in the morning at 5.30 for Lichtenberg I believe. We left H this morning at the usual early hour when you people in the old country are in a peaceful slumbering state of bliss. I was baggage guard today which was rather monotonous as we have to keep with the wagon all the way and the mules did not appear in a humour to make any pace as it was so very hot. There was heaps of fighting along the way we came and a few [?] from Kunnanafontein (where we halted for the night) perhaps 30 forts, sangers[?] and defences erected by the British during the last operation of the war. I believe it was the base depot for all troops working round here. We got here at 3pm and after getting the camp tonight the skipper called up all squad leaders and after giving orders for future; told us the object of our trek which was firstly, to let the Boers on the farms are passed see that mobile bodies of British were always on the move and ready to go to any destination. Secondly that a rumour was current in Joburg [Johannesburg] that a Dutch Field [?] Van Zyl who had given up his arms but had not taken oath of allegiance was around and had a dozen or so more felons of the same description with him and it was thought that V.Z was going up Lichtenburg way with the intention of doing Mr Chamberlain harm. Wolmaranstad is 8 hours trek from here and V.Z passed through there the day before yesterday Friday so we are close on his track if he does anything rash. After staying at Curanna a day we trekked to Rooiangeslacht, a place of a big name but bad water. Next morning we started for Lichtenberg which was 42 miles away and we halted at midday for a couple of hours for scoff. The skipper sent me on to Lichtenberg 10 miles to get things ready and see the Capt of SAC there. They were busy preparing for Chamberlain’s visit. We stayed Lichtenburg next day and played a cricket match with Nbr 6 Troop who are stationed there. We beat them on first innings but our skipper decided to play another innings each and they beat us this time. I saw Delarey[?] at [?] next morning we left for Dormain Drift which is the border of Traansvaal and 8 miles from Mafeking. We stayed here three days and on the 3rd day were inspected by Mr Chamberlain. Mrs Chamberlain being very busy taking snapshots the while. Mr Chamberlain made a speech in which he said he was very sorry to leave us and that we were the epitomy of the British nations as there were English, Irish, Scotch, Canadians, Australians and in fact every colony was represented and he expected us to be the ears and eyes of the British Gov. and he was very pleased with turn out. B.P [Baden-Powel] said Mr Chamberlain sat with one SAC. who was ill at Lichtenburg for several hours (frantic cheering). We also cheered Joey and B.P the latter said  ‘God Bless You’. Left Drift next morning 10 o’clock for Ottos Hoop and stayed there next day. The morning after we trekked to Kaffirs Kraal 22 miles. The skipper sent myself and squad after wagon which had started at 6am and had taken wrong road. We found tracks of wagon and followed and found it had gone another way to K.K. Next morning left K.K.  for Lead Mines [between Lichtenburg and Swartruggens]. My squad were advance guard and got to L.M. alright. This is a grand spot and heaps of fruit in great profusion and as it was near road we made most of it. Next day we stopped at a large farm on Sunday but the Boers at farm said when asked to sell us fruit said ‘no fruit for Kharkis’ [british troops]. So you can guess we dodged round the back and filled our nosebag with ripe fruit so having our own back. We arrived Kleinfontein that evening just in time to get tents etc ready before storm broke over. Naauwpoort was our next destination and we got there about midday. There was a store and liquor bar and our fellows got pretty drunk and as skipper and Lieutenant had gone to Rustenberg and made a row. The Canadians calling 15 Troop all sort of pet names so there was a free fight. I was in charge of guard and had tricky times but at last all was settled and next day we went on to Pamflei and skipper caught us there and next morning arrived back at Kocksoord after 3 weeks trek. Rather enjoyable time. Next morning went to Ottoshoop 38 miles and stayed there next day. Played match with Nbr 20 troop beating them 3 goals to nil — 0 —

For his services, he received the Queen’s South Africa Medal with clasps ‘Cape Colony’; ‘Orange Free State’; ‘Transvaal’, ‘South Africa 1901’; and ‘South Africa 1902’.

He returned from fighting in South Africa in March 1903 and later that year, on 30 August 1903, he married Ann Jane Williams (known as Annie) at St Andrew’s Church, Cardiff. They had a total of three children together in Cardiff, being:

  • Kathleen Elizabeth Anstey (b 14 March 1905, known as Kath. She was baptised 23 April 1905 at Cardiff St Teilo and married Alfred Richard John Dunster (known as Jack) on 31 May 1936 St Peters Streatham);
  • Thomas George Anstey (b 1906, known as Tom. He was baptised 6 January 1907 at Cardiff St Teilo. He married Kathleen Francis Yeoman, known as ‘Kit’, in 1932 in Lambeth and he died in 1938 in Camberwell – they had no children); and
  • Ernest William Anstey (b 1909, known as Ernie – my grandfather. He was baptised on 6 June 1909 in Cardiff and he married in first 1935 and then 1947.).

On 26 Aug 1906 he was admitted to the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (Membership Number 205759) – he was by then a fireman (stoker) at the Taff Vale Railway.

At the time of the 1911 Census the family were living at 14 Hawthorn Road, Whitchurch, West Llandaff, Cardiff; he was described as a “Railway Engine Fireman [ie a stoker]”. In 1913, he received a major boost to his career when he was appointed to the staff at the London Head Office of the then newly-formed National Union of Railwaymen.

At the outbreak of World War One, he was in the Territorial Army – it is currently not known the specifics of his involvement in this conflict.

At some point between 1913 and 1916 the family moved from Tottenham to Tooting and by 1918 they were living at Barrington Road in Brixton; they later moved to Norwood in Lambeth where in 1924 he stood as the Labour candidate in the General Election of that year, eventually losing to the Conservative candidate Sir Walter Greaves-Lord.

[Note: For a detailed analysis of George’s 1924 Parliamentary Election Adventure, as well as the 1931 Election Campaign of his wife Annie, see ‘George and Annie’s Parliamentary Adventures 1924 and 1931‘]

He was also involved in the masons, joining them in 1919 and later gaining a Masonic medal – according to the West Norwood Freemasons “The medal you have there is from the Holy Royal Arch which is indeed a Masonic Degree. If it belonged to George, then he would have been a Freemason who had to have advanced to at least the Degree of a Master Mason in a Craft Lodge. There was a West Norwood Holy Royal Arch Chapter which surrendered its warrant some years ago”.

In 1930 the family moved to 39 Roxburgh Road, Knight’s Hill, Norwood, Lambeth. In 1934, he was elected as a ‘Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute’, though at this time he was also still employed by the National Union of Railwaymen. At the time of the 1939 Register, he was still living at 39 Roxburgh Road – he was an “insurance manager“. He had also by this time become a well-known and respected Labour Councillor for Lambeth.

He spent his twilight years living the summer months in a chalet in Swalecliffe near Herne Bay; he died on 20 March 1958 at the Royal Masonic Hospital, Hammersmith, London. According to his death certificate, he was a “retired cashier of the National Union of Railwaymen” – the ‘Norwood News‘ on 28 March 1958 reported “Lambeth councillor dies: The funeral of Mr. George, James Anstey (aged 76), a former Lambeth Councillor,’ took place yesterday (Thursday) at Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting. He died on Thursday last week. Mr Anstey, a keen worker for the Labour Party once stood as Parliamentary Labour candidate for the Norwood Division. He was vice-president of West Norwood Tennis Club and served on Lambeth War Pensions committee. A Gloucester man, he spent much of his young working life in Cardiff on the railways. Later he became an official of the N. U. R. [National Union of Railwaymen] Friendly Society

He was buried in the family grave (reference: ‘604 D1 CONS’) at Lambeth Cemetery.

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