Alfred John Anstee, a member of the Market Harborough Anstees, was born on 8 September 1882 in Islington to parents Alfred Anstee and Elizabeth Rebecca Cannon [Canning?]. In the 1891 Census the family were living at Barker Street, Kensington then on 22 July 1906 he married Mary Louise Overall in Southwark. They had a large family in Walworth/Southwark, being:
- Mary Louisa Anstee (b 1907, died 1908);
- Alfred Charles George Anstee (b 24 August 1908, married Annie Matilda Messenger);
- Nellie May Anstee (b 15 September 1910 – died in 1919, see below);
- Grace Margaret Anstee (b 14 July 1912);
- Thomas Leonard Anstee (b 22 October 1913);
- Ada E. Anstee (b 1915);
- Ethel A. Anstee (b 1920);
- Henry W. Anstee (b 1922);
- George Anstee (b 1923);
- William J. Anstee (b 1925); and
- Albert E. Anstee (b 1927)
By the 1911 Census Alfred was working as a farrier, living with his family at 15 Kingston Street, Walworth, St Mary Newington. In fact since around 1909 he had been working for his elder brother George W. Anstee at his business “G. Anstee – Practical Farrier – Shoeing Forge – 15 Kingston Street, Walworth“, continuing to work for him until early 1915.
At the time of the 1915 Electoral Register Alfred’s family were living at 257 East Street, “renting two unfurnished rooms on the top floor“. By this time he had already volunteered for service during World War One. According to his Attestation Form, he signed up in Woolwich on 15 January 1915, stating that he was a married, 32 year old shoeing smith living at “257 East Street Walworth“.
He was first posted to the Army Service Corps (Service Number 5887) however on 12 March 1915 he was transferred to the Royal Field Artillery as a Shoeing Smith & Driver (Service Number: 98032/98035). The ‘National Roll of the Great War‘ gives the following account:
“ANSTEE A. Shoeing Smith R. F. A. He volunteered in December 1914 and in March of the following year proceeded to the Western Front. There he took part in the fighting at Neuve Chapelle, Ypres, and Festubert. Shortly afterwards he was drafted to Mesapotamia and in this theatre of war saw much service at Kut-el-Amara, and on the Tigris. In September 1919 he returned home and was demobilised and holds the 1914-15 Star, General Service and Victory Medals. 257 East Street, Walworth“
We can add much to the above summary. Alfred’s Service Record indicates that he entered the France Theatre of War on 10 April 1915, remaining there until 14 December 1915, at which point he was transferred to Mesopotamia, where he remained until war’s end. Then on 24 April 1919 he was transferred to India, where on 1 June 1919 he was posted to the ‘Elephant Battery’. By this time he was with the Nbr 1 Section of the Indian Divisional Artillery Column (I. D. A. C.) of the Royal Field Artillery. On 30 May 1919 whilst in Hebbal working as a shoeing smith, he was disciplined for “drunkenness and being absent from draft” , for which he was given 168 hours detention and a fine “according to the scale for drunkenness“.
Meanwhile, back at home and presumably in late 1915 or early 1916, Alfred’s wife Mary Louise wrote to the Army “Dear Sir I request you please to tell me my husband’s whereabouts. When last I heard he was leaving France for an unknown place and I have not heard since. Can you kindly tell me how to address my letters as I would like to know if he is quite well…“
In June 1919 Mary Louise again wrote to the Army “Dear Sir I am writing to ask if you could inform me if my husband has been drafted elsewhere or if he is on his way home as I have not heard from him for several weeks and his last letter was dated April 9th . The reason why I am asking is because my little girl 9 years old is lying very ill indeed in St Thomas Hospital and I do not know where to write to let him know..” Sadly, Nellie May, the daughter referred to in the letter, died a couple of months later on 13 September 1919 of tuberculosis.
In the same month that his daughter died, Alfred returned home. He was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve on 21 October 1919 and formally discharged on 31 March 1920 with conduct deemed “very good“. For his services he was awarded the 1915 Star, as well as the Victory and British War medals, which he physically received on 3 September 1920, still living in East Street, Walworth.
After the war Alfred initially struggled to obtain employment – at one point (probably in 1920) writing to the Army “Dear Sir, Would you kindly send me on my character for Army Service. I am unemployed and am seeking temporary employment at [page missing] to be in as soon as possible. Hoping you will oblige. I am Sir, Yours Truly, A. Anstee (Late shoeing smith 98035 R. F. A.)”
By the 1921 Census the family were still living in Southwark, and at the time of the 1939 Register they were living at 21 Beckway Street, Old Kent Road, Southwark, where Alfred was again working as a farrier.
Alfred died in 1948 in Battersea, “aged 65“.
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