Garnet Anstey (b 1882)

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

Garnet Anstey, a member of the St Luke Holborn Ansteys, was born in Hoxton, Shoreditch in 1882 to parents William Anstey and Eliza Cook. He was the brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Reuben Anstey and Ernest Anstey.

In the 1901 Census Garnet was a fountain pen maker living with his family in Shoreditch. Then a year later in 1902 he married Alice Marion Dainty in Holburn, and by the 1911 Census they were living at 17 Herbert Street, Shoreditch with their two sons Albert Edward Garnet Anstey (b 1902) and Frederick George Anstey (b 1906).

On 15 August 1916, around two years after the commencement of World War One, Garnet signed up with the Royal Flying Corps (Service Number: 43931). On his Attestation Form he indicated that he was still a fountain pen maker, living with his wife and children at 229 New Kent Road, Southwark. He also stated that his “Current Engagement in H. M. Forces” was “Army“, so presumably Garnet must have previously signed up for active service with the Army, though we currently find no documentation regarding that.

Within the Royal Flying Corps, Garnet was assigned to the 31st Kite Balloon Section unit and his trade classification was “K. B. S. Tele“. He was sent to France on 17 December 1916, remaining there until 31 December 1918, after war’s end.

[Note: The Kite Balloon Section of the Royal Flying Corps in World War One performed a fairly dangerous, but vital, observational and intelligence gathering role. According to the ‘Royal Air Force Historical Society‘ Journal 54 “In action, a kite balloon might remain aloft for as long as ten hours at a stretch. Suspended above the lines, typically at about 3,000 feet, although there was enough cable to get up to 5,000, beneath some 30,000 cu ft of highly inflammable hydrogen (think Hindenburg) in what amounted to a laundry hamper that swung wildly in windy conditions, the balloon observer’s working environment was not an enviable one. Furthermore, balloons were vulnerable to marauding enemy fighters, at some risk from the friendly anti-aircraft guns that were supposed to ward off these attackers and occasionally in the direct line of fire in an artillery duel. Many were shot down and damage to cables caused others to slip their moorings and drift away over the battlefield, usually towards the enemy lines as a result of the prevailing westerly winds. To cater for these situations, balloon observers were unique among aviators of the period in that they were provided with parachutes, and while these were far from perfect, they did save many lives. What a balloon observer did was pretty much what the crew of an aeroplane did, but he observed his relatively restricted patch from a fixed vantage point, and thus became very familiar with the lie of the land and able to detect the most subtle of changes.”]

On 1 April 1918 Garnet, together with the rest of the RFC, came under the wing of the then newly formed Royal Air Force, assigned to unit “RAF am/3” (the Royal Air Force being a merger between the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service).

After the termination of hostilities, on 29 January 1919, Garnet was transferred to RAF (G) Reserve. He was formally discharged on 30 April 1920, by which time the family was living at 49 Baldwin Street, City Road, London.

On Garnet’s RAF form is written “No entry on casualty card – destroyed 2.6.20” so presumably he was not wounded during the conflict. For his services he received the British War and Victory Medals, delivered to him in September 1921.

By the 1939 Register Garnet and his wife were living at 82 Jerningham Road, Nunhead, Southwark – he was a foreman in a fountain pen making business. He died in 1943 at Guys Hospital, still living in Southwark. Effects were to his widow Alice Marion Anstey.

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