William Henry Anstey, a member of the Dyrham Anstees, was born in 1876 in Newington to parents William Henry Anstey and Phillis Sarah Forster [or Oswald – see Research Note below]. He grew up in Townsend Street, St George the Martyr, Southwark until his father died in 1886, so by the 1891 Census he was a porter living at Odill Street, Camberwell with his mother and her new husband Simon Robinson.
A year later, on 21 June 1892, aged only 16, William signed up in Aldershot for twelve years of Army service (7 years full time followed by 5 years with the Reserves) with the (Prince of Wales Own Royal) Hussars as a Private (Regiment Number: 3589 and later 4022). In order to be accepted, William incorrectly wrote on his Attestation Form that he was “18 years and 2 months” of age – he also noted that he was still a porter; and that his next of kin was his mother “Philips [sic] Sarah Robinson, 12 Odill Street, Albany Road, London“.
William’s seven years of full-time Army service was with the 20th Hussars and broke down thus:
- Home – 21 June 1892 to 10 September 1895
- India – 11 September 1895 to 15 April 1898 spent somewhat uneventfully, based at Mhow near Bombay
- Home – 16 April 1898 to 20 June 1899
He was then transferred into the ‘A’ Reserve, until being “recalled to Army Service under special Army Order of 7 October 1899” at the commencement of the Second Boer War.
On 21 May 1900 William embarked for South Africa to fight with the 10th (Prince of Wales Own Royal) Hussars, remaining there until 25 July 1902. For his services during this conflict he was awarded the King’s South Africa Medal with clasps ‘South Africa 1901’ and ‘South Africa 1902’, as well as the Queen’s South Africa medal with clasps ‘Paardeberg‘; ‘Dreifontein‘; ‘Johannesburg‘; ‘Diamond Hill‘; ‘Wittebergen’; and ‘Relief of Kimberley‘. From this haul of clasps it is clear that he was very much involved in many of the major actions during this conflict.
On his return to England William was again posted to ‘A’ Reserve until his official discharge from service on 20 June 1904 as “4044 Private William H. Anstey 10th Hussars“. He was not wounded during his service.
On 25 December 1906 William, a “machine inspector, son of William Henry Anstey” living at 29 Chatham Road married his first cousin Mabel Louise Anstey “daughter of George Joseph Anstey, baker” at St Michael’s Church, Battersea – witnesses were M. J. Russell and Mabel’s brother Herbert William Anstey. By the 1911 Census both William and his wife Mabel were “housekeepers” living at 65 Chancery Lane, St Andrew Holborn – they had no children at this point and we find no evidence of any later children either.
At some point between 1911 and 1914 William (and possibly Mabel) went to Canada because right at the outset of World War One, on 29 November 1914, he signed up for active service in Toronto with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force as a Private. On his Attestation Paper he gave his next of kin as his wife “Mabel Louise Anstey”; his address as “PO Box 241 Schreiber, Ontario?“; Mabel’s address as “12 Trollope Street, Silverthorne Road, Battersea“; his birth place as “London“; his trade as “locomotive fireman“/”trimmer“; his previous military experience as “11 years in 10th Hussars Imperial Army“; and his religion as Church of England.
As a mark of just how early in the war William signed up in Canada, his Regimental Number was ‘8’. He was posted to the ‘2nd Divisional Supply Column’ of the Canadian Army Service Corps, leaving Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the ship ‘Metagama‘ on 10 April 1915, arriving in England a week later. On 9 September 1915 he then left Southampton, arriving in Rouen, France a day after that.
It is unclear precisely what William did in France in 1916 and 1917, though at some point his rank was “cleaner 3rd class [with the] Mechanical Section“.
He was certainly “in the field” on 3 March 1916; he was granted 10 days leave in November 1916; and in February 1917 he “proceeded to the 1st Canadian Division Guard Room” after being found guilty of being “absent in billet, committing a nuisance in billet, neglect of duty, and absent from billet after 9pm“.
After his detention William rejoined his unit “in the field” on 12 March 1917. On 17 November 1917 he was granted 10 days leave, however two days later in England, whilst still “on leave from France“, he caught a very serious bout of influenza and was admitted to the ‘4th London General Hospital’ at Denmark Hill for 28 days. He was then transferred to the ‘No 4 Canadian Gen Hospital’ at Basingstoke for a further 65 days of recuperation, finally leaving hospital on 22 February 1918. William spent most of the rest of the war at one of the Canadian depots in Shorncliffe.
By the time he was discharged on 2 April 1919, William was still part of the Canadian Army Service Corps, though he was actually discharged in England. His Service Record suggests that at this time his wife Mabel was living at either 215 George Lane Lewisham or 4 Newington Terrace, St Lawrence, Ramsgate – though she moved around a lot (there are at least 5 different addresses written and then crossed out)!
To the best of our knowledge, when William received his medals in 1921, they were living at 4 Ventnor Road in New Cross, London.
Per his Service Record, William died on 5 July 1930, which means he very likely died in Camberwell “aged 54“.
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[Research Note: William Henry Anstey was born in q2 1876 in St Saviour, Southwark to William Henry Anstey and Phillis Sarah Oswald, but in the same year William Henry Anstey married Phillis Sarah Forster in St Saviour. Furthermore William Henry Anstey’s birth is given in various sources as 1876 (most censuses); c April 1874 (1892 Attestation Papers) or 25 March 1878 (World War One Attestation Papers) – however it is clearly the same person.]