Arthur John Anstee, known as Jack, a member of the Ivinghoe Anstees, was born in 1898 (on 15 February 1898 per the 1939 Register, though the birth was registered in q3 1898 and a newspaper report below says it was July 1898) in Cranfield to parents Arthur John Anstee and Emily Robinson. He grew up in Cranfield, living at Poplar Row Cranfield Woburn Sands, Cranfield in the 1911 Census.
In the ‘Bedfordshire Mercury‘ 30 August 1907 edition appears “ACCIDENT: Jack Anstee, a schoolboy about ten years of age, whose father Arthur Anstee is a tailor, had an unfortunate experience on Friday. On that day he accompanied a butchers boy in a cart and on the rounds the lad had to make a call at a farm house, leaving little Jack in the cart. During the absence of the driver, some cows came upon the scene and frightened the pony. The animal made off and after a time Jack was thrown out of the cart and received a nasty compound fracture of the arm. He was removed to the county hospital and detained. He is however progressing satisfactorily towards recovery.“
Very early in World War One, on 31 May 1915, Jack signed up for active service in Bedford with the Bedfordshire Yeomanry as a Private (Service Number: 1905). There was only one problem however in that he was underage, so on his Attestation Form, as well as noting that he was an “engineer” living at High Street, Cranfield with his father Arthur John Anstee, he wrote that he was 19 years old. Less than two weeks later he was discharged because he had “made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment – Kings Regs Para 392 Section 6a“.
Undeterred, Jack signed up again once he had turned 18, probably in mid-1916, this time with the Royal Garrison Artillery as a Fitter (Service Number: 101900). In 1918 he was promoted to Staff Sergeant, as confirmed in the ‘Bedfordshire Times and Independent‘ on 3 May 1918, where it wrote “We have to congratulate Mr and Mrs A. J. Anstee on the promotion of their son to Staff Sergeant. Staff Sgt A. J. Anstee will not be 20 until July; he passed from Woolwich as a fitter into the Garrison Artillery, going to France a year ago last March. He was gassed in the August following“.
At some point after his promotion to Staff Sergeant, Jack was awarded the ‘Meritorious Service Medal’ and ‘mentioned in despatches’ whilst he was attached to the 336th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery in France. We have no further details of the precise actions he took to merit these awards. For his services Jack was also awarded the Victory and British War medals, as well as Territorial Force Efficiency Medals.
After the war, Jack married Bertha Victoria Child in Newport Pagnell in 1923 – we find no children from this marriage. In 1937 Jack attended his father’s funeral in Cranfield, sending a wreath with message “From a loving son and daughter Jack and Bertha“. By the 1939 Register, the couple were living at 14 The Uplands, Ruislip where Jack was a ‘Water Softener Engineer’.
Jack died on 7 February 1953 aged 54. The ‘Wolverton Express‘ on 20 February 1953 wrote “Mr A. J. Anstee: The funeral took place at New Bradwell on Friday of Mr. Arthur John Anstee, a former resident in the town. He died at his home 124 Ewhurst Road, Crofton Park, London on 7th February, after a long illness, patiently suffered. A native of Cranfield he served through the First World War in the Royal Artillery, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant, and was one of the youngest to be promoted on the field. When his illness developed, as a result of enemy air activity in the last war, he resided at St Mary Street, New Bradwell, until returning to his Crofton Park residence, where much kindness was shown to him by local friends…Mourners were Mrs Anstee (widow); Mrs Anstee (mother)…”
Jack was buried at New Bradwell (Stantonbury) Cemetery with gravestone inscription “In Ever Loving Memory of My Dear Husband Arthur John Anstee who departed this life 7 February 1953 aged 54 years…”. On 27 February 1953 the ‘Wolverton Express‘ added “The following floral tributes were received at the funeral of the late Mr. Arthur John Anstee at New Bradwell: In affectionate remembrance, and from your everloving and devoted wife, Bertha, To my darling Jack Only God knows we are parting until we meet again. You have suffered so patiently but it was not in vain. God bless you my darling in loving memory of dearest Jack, from Mother…“
Probate was to his widow Bertha Victoria Anstee, who was still living at 124 Ewhurst Road, Crofton Park, London when she died in 1989 – at which point “Bertha the Beloved Wife of Jack United” was further inscribed on their gravestone.
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