Frank Gerald Anstey (1889-1916)

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

Frank Gerald Anstey, a member of the Kennford Ansteys, was born on 9 March 1889 in Exeter to parents Harry Anstey and Mary Jane Miflin, baptised on 12 April 1889 in Heavitree. He was brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Douglas Harry Anstey; Reginald James Anstey; and Elsie Winnifred Anstey. Frank grew up living at Penleonard Cottage, Magdalen Road, Exeter and by the 1901 Census he was still living with his family at Fore Street, North Tawton. By the 1911 Census he was an unmarried servant working for a family living at 1 Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington.

Early in World War One, on 15 May 1915 at Chelsea Town Hall, Frank enlisted for service, joining the 17th (Duke Of Cambridge’s Own) Middlesex Regiment as a Private (Service Number: F/1510). At the time of his enlistment he described himself as a stableman.

Frank entered the ‘France Theatre of War’ on 17 November 1915, heading straight to the Western Front. His regiment (17th Middlesex Regiment) was also known as the ‘1st Football Battalion’ or ‘Footballer’s Battalion’, made up of professional footballers & referees due to the suspension of football matches in England during the conflict. Frank fought alongside them in the trenches, particularly during the Battle of the Somme, which commenced on 1 July 1916, as part of the 6th Brigade, 2nd Division. He survived the horrors of the initial battles (including heavy fighting at Delville Wood on 27–29 July and Guillemont on 8 August) but on 18 September 1916 a German attack killed fourteen members of the battalion near Albert, France, one of whom was Frank – “they had been shoring up a collapsed trench parapet throughout the previous night, the they came under heavy enemy mortar fire and were taking cover when the Germans blew a mine under their positions. The men were overcome by poisonous gas and within 24 hours the entire unit was dead.

The ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette’ on 13 October 1916 reported “North Tawton. The greatest sympathy is felt with Mr. H. Anstey and his family on the death of their son, Pte. Frank Gerald Anstey, Middlesex Regt., who was killed on the 18th of September.

The ‘Western Times‘ on 14 October 1916 also reported “West Country Casualties in the Latest Lists: In the Ranks Killed: Middlesex Regiment F. Anstey (North Tawton)

Frank was buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps CWGC Cemetery/Memorial, Somme, France (Plot Reference: ‘I. F . 35‘) with personal Inscription “Until We Meet Again“.

For his services he was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star medal, as well as the Victory and British War medals.

Frank is commemorated at the family grave in North Tawton Cemetery; the gravestone inscription reads “In Loving Memory of Harry Anstey who died July 11 1919 aged 60 years. He Suffered Patiently and Long…Also Private Frank Gerald, son of the above, who fell in action in France Sept 18 1916 aged 28 Years. Nobly he Fought and Fell. And Mary Jane Anstey widow of the above H. Anstey, who died aged 70 years“.

He is also commemorated on the War Memorial in North Tawton on Panel 2 “Private Frank Gerald Anstey of the 17th Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment. Son of Harry and Mary Jane Anstey of Mill Lane, North Tawton. Born 1889 June Quarter in Exeter. Died 18 September 1916 aged 27.

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