Elsie Winifred Anstey, a member of the Kennford Ansteys, was born on 26 July 1896 in North Tawton to parents Harry Anstey and Mary Jane Miflin, baptised in Heavitree on 11 September 1896. She was sister to fellow Anstey Heroes Douglas Harry Anstey; Frank Gerald Anstey; and Reginald James Anstey, growing up at Fore Street, North Tawton. By the 1911 Census she was living with her family at Holly House, North Tawton, performing “house duties“.
In May 1914 Elsie moved to London to work as a lady’s maid for a well-to-do family living at 24 Chester Square. Then on 2 February 1917, as World War One was raging, she decided to help the war effort by joining the Women’s Legion. She was formally employed by them on 14 February 1917, based in Croydon.
Later in the same year, on 19 September 1917, Elsie was transferred to the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (Service Number: 4520), joining the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (Q. M. A. A. C.) as a ‘Worker’ (“Assistant Military Waitress“) at Crookham. Her previous employer gave her the following reference: “Dear Madam, Elsie Anstey has been in my service since May 1914 – she comes from a most respectable family and is thoroughly honest and well credited, and she would be quite suitable for life in a military camp“.
Elsie worked at Crookham as part of the Q. M. A. A. C., assisting the “20th and 21st OCB [Officer Cadet Battalion]“, until she was formally discharged as “medically unfit” on 15 February 1919. Her Medical Report dated 13 January 1919 noted that she “had eczema of hands which was contracted while serving as waitress in Q. M. A. A. C. In the opinion of the Board this disability is due to service with the Corps“. She was issued a ‘Silver War Badge’ on 21 February 1919.
There exists a letter from Elsie written just after her discharge, on 6 March 1919, asking for sick pay due to the fact that she was unable to work due to her injuries, where she wrote:
“I have this morning received Discharge Badge for services rendered in the Q. M. A. A. C. but I have not yet received money due to me for service rendered. I had been in the Army 2 years I first joined the W. L. [Women’s Legion] before being transferred to the Q. M. A. A. C. I received my discharge on the grounds of being medically unfit owing to poisoned fingers on my hands which came through putting my hands in water so much whilst in the Army. I received £5 with my discharge which was paying me a [illeg] 10/- per week money but I was unable to seek employment as I am still under the [Dr?]. I would indeed be very grateful if you would give this your speedy attention. Yours obediently E. W. Anstey (4520)“.
A letter written by the authorities on 11 March 1919 states “Controller QMAAC Aldershot Command. Attached please find a copy of a letter received from a late member E. Ansty 4520 who was discharged on medical grounds from Crookham on 15.2.19. I will be glad if you can have full investigations made into this member’s case and inform me as soon as possible whether any pay is due to her and what steps have been taken to settle the matter”
Further correspondence in May 1919 adds “her [Elsie’s] panel Doctor certifies she is suffering from eczema contracted during service in all probability owing to the fact that Miss Anstey’s hands were constantly in water. Her fingers also are poisoned. Miss Anstey therefore is unable to work and in addition to the fact she requires treatment, she is also making application for sick benefits as she has no other income to pay for the living of herself or her mother.“
The ‘War Pensions Committee’ investigated her claim in August 1919 noting that “the disability from which Miss Anstey suffers is not due to an injury by accident within the meaning of the Women’s Compensation Act, nor to an industrial disease” – it is unclear if she was finally awarded any pension or compensation, though it seems likely she wasn’t.
After her discharge, Elsie returned to live at Holly House in North Tawton with her family. She was still unmarried when she attended her mother’s funeral in 1930 in North Tawton (referred to as “Miss E. Anstey (daughter)“). After that we lose track of her completely.
Anybody who would like to add anything to this biography, or knows what became of Elsie, please contact us at email@example.com.