George Benjamin Anstey (1894-1918)

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

George Benjamin Anstey, a member of the Dyrham Anstees, was born in May 1894 at Village Farm in Caldicot, Monmouthshire to parents William Philip Anstey and Ann Keene. He was sibling to fellow Anstey Heroes Mary Caroline Anstey, Philip Roger Anstey and Edward Keene Anstey.

In 1901, the family moved from Caldicot to Rogiet, Monmouthshire. George did well at school and at the age of ten went to Colston School in Stapleton in Bristol. He was working as ‘farm help’ at the family farm, Manor Farm, in the 1911 Census and in 1912 he suffered from Rheumatic fever.

In September 1915, around a year after the outbreak of World War One, George enlisted with the 3rd Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry as a Private (Regimental Number: 235732 and 3187), coincidentally meeting up with Alfred Richard William Anstey, known as Dick, during enlistment. The ‘Gloucester Journal‘ on 2 October 1915 confirms this, noting that “Anstey George B. Rogiet, Newport, Mon” had enlisted between 22 and 29 September 1915.

In June 1916, George arrived in Egypt to join his regiment. On 4 August 1916, he was “wounded in action” during the Battle of Romani in Egypt, stating that after a battle lasting over two hours he had been shot, the bullet going through his left cheek, out the right side of his neck and into his right shoulder.

By early 1917, George had recovered and was back with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) fighting in the Second Battle of Gaza in Palestine in April 1917. By September 1917, George was in Cairo, Egypt, then on 28 November 1917 he was reported missing while on duty at a relay post with three other men, the post being overrun by the Turks.

The official date of George’s death given by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is 16 December 1917, but this is surely incorrect because there exist numerous letters and documents appearing to confirm that George was still alive in 1918 (at one point in a hospital in Aleppo, and later possibly in a place called “Gillibach“).

As late as 20 December 1918 in a letter sent to George’s family home in Roggiet, a fellow soldier stated “I suppose you will have had a decent few Prisoners of War home by the time you receive this letter including George Anstey who set sail from Alexandria somewhere about three weeks ago from information which I had off an old pal“.

However on 4 January 1919, another letter stated that no trace of George could be found at Aleppo, then on 1 February 1919, in a letter to George’s mother it was stated that Captain Howard of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars had not been able to find any news at the hospital in Aleppo, and that George was now “on the missing list“.

As such, it is highly likely that George actually died in 1918, not 1917, though it remains unclear precisely how and where. He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Al Basrah, Basra, Iraq (Panel 60).

Anybody who would like to add anything to this biography, please contact us at research@theansteystory.com.

The following appears courtesy of http://forthosewhoserved.co.uk/search/George-Anstey

War Service
1915

Trained at Tidworth. Letter to his father written on 1st October 1915 stated he did not regret enlistment and that “I hope we have set an example to the chaps around”. There are various letters from Tidworth, one in which he requested that his brother’s (Phillip) bike be sent to him. There were a couple regretting that he could not get leave to go home and his mother visited him there.

1916

18th June 1916 – a letter to his mother arrived stating he had arrived in Egypt after two weeks at sea.

1st July, 1916, he wrote a letter to his mother stating he had lost nearly a stone in weight since he’s been in Egypt. There was reference to the Argus being common over there.

13th July, 1916 – a post card was sent home stating he was well.

Army Form B.104 from Territorial Force Warwick, dated 22nd August 1916 stated that George had been wounded in action on the 4th August, 1916,

Army form dated 23rd August, 1916 stated that on the 13th August, George was dangerously ill at No.31 General Hospital, Port Said.

Army form dated 24th August, 1916 stated that George was now out of danger.

In a letter dated 7th August, George states that after a battle lasting over two hours he had been shot – the bullet had gone through his left cheek, came out the right side of his neck and went into his right shoulder. Later in a letter dated 13th September, George told his mother he had kept the bullet.

George suffered complications from his injury (stiff neck, sore throat) and so went to various convalescent depots from 23rd August until he was discharged from the Red Cross Convalescent Hospital on 20th October, 1916. During that time he wrote to his father stating that he was given one shilling to spend each week whilst the Australians had six times more. He liked his stay at the Red Cross best stating there were concerts and pictures at least three to four times a week. He also admitted he was glad to have been wounded because he was so tired.

1917

In a letter to his mother dated 12th January, 1917, George told her about a raid he had been on. They had ridden all night to make an 8.a.m. attack but the range was too far so they had to mount up and ride to a nearer ridge under heavy fire. His horse was hit in the shoulder close to George’s thigh and other horses were shot. They made it to their new destination but used up their ammunition, went back for more and then advanced on foot under heavy fire. The raid was a distraction to allow the Australians to get behind the Turks. He stated the enemy were in a good position and had many machine guns so they had to retire under heavy fire and many were hit. The Australians advanced and got to the Turkish trenches. The German officers who forced the Turks to fight were given no quarter but 150 Turks were captured. Then George and his comrades rode back. He reported that Harry Andrews (Caldicot) had been hit in the mouth. In a

1917 continued

later letter (? date) George says that Harry has got on the transport and that Harry was not so strong as he was.

25th February, 1917, in a letter to his mother, George talks of the men having lice and septic sores. He told that the lice appeared to fatten on the powder given to them by the doctor.

Easter Sunday (? 1917) in a letter to his Mother, George tells her that he met up with Allan Pride (formerly of Caldicot) who had emigrated to Australia and was now a Sgt. of the Light Horse. (James Allen Pride died on 7th February, 1919, in Egypt).

24th April, 1917 in a letter to his father George said that his friend Trevor had been taken to hospital after being wounded on the 19th, but that he had died the next day. George was referring to Trevor William, James, Private 235730. Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, killed on 20th April, 1917, buried at Gaza War Cemetery. Trevor was 19 and was the son of William and Elizabeth A James of 85, Angus Street, Roath Park, Cardiff.

Two letters were written to home sent from the Holy Land (5th and 20th May).

September, 1917 – George write to his father from Cairo telling him he went to the Pyramids.

Trying to get home

25th September, 1917, in a letter to his sister, George mentions the application from his father trying to get George sent home for a few months to help on the farm because his father’s health was not good. 5th October, 1917, he wrote to his mother telling her he had just arrived back to the Regiment after five days leave to Port Said. He was not holding onto any hope for his request to return home would be accepted. Although Dick Anstey, whom he met up with when he enlisted, had been allowed to return because his Mother and Father had died and also he had been wounded twice in the same leg. On the 12th October he wrote to his father saying that his request had been turned down because there was not sufficient reason for it to be allowed. It had been stopped at Brigade.

27th November, 1917 – in a letter to the Rector, George talked about past Christmases.

6th November, 1917 – a post card arrived to say he was okay.

Missing

George was reported missing on the 28th November, 1917. He went missing while on duty at a relay post, with three other men, taking despatches forwards and backwards. The post was overrun by the Turks – this information came from a letter from A.H.S. Howard, o/c D. Squadron dated 12th December, 1917.

The official date of his death given by the CWGC is the 16th December, 1917, but this appears to be wrong because there is a letter from George dated that same date confirming he was a prisoner of war. He states he is well and that there were three more Gloucester’s with him. There is a suggestion that he was at a hospital at Aleppo. In correspondence from the Duchess of Beauforts’s fund for R. Glo’stershire Hussars Yeomanry Prisoners of War, dated September 1918, there was the suggestion that there was still hope.

In a letter from Anne Anstey, Manor Farm, written to “Charlie”, dated 28th December, 1918, she states that they had a letter from George written on 16th December, 1917; and that Cpl. Grimshaw stated he went into hospital at Aleppo (possibly with Rheumatic fever) on Christmas Day.

26th December 1917, Sgt. Bromhead wrote to Mrs. Anstey thanking her for two parcels which she had sent to George – the contents had been shared with his pals.

12th April, 1918 – a letter to George from his mother stating that the day was her 25th wedding anniversary.

7th July 1918, in a letter from Pte. Heston to his mother, he stated that “I have just heard that George Anstey is at a place called Gillibach about fifteen miles from here; the other fellow who was captured is just come back from the rest camp, and he heard about him there”.

11th July, 1918 – a letter to George from his mother wondering why no letters had arrived from him and that perhaps he had omitted to complete the full address and so they had not been delivered.

26th September, 1918, Mrs Anstey was informed that another RGH soldier (236466 Pt. E. Smith) from Gloucestershire in a letter to his mother had been in the hospital at Aleppo and that George was okay.

5th September 1918 – a letter written by his mother to George stating that the lack of new from him makes me sad but that she had great faith in God’s care of his loved ones.

20th December 1918 – a letter addressed to “his home at Roggiett” “I suppose you will have had a decent few prisoners of war home by the time you receive this letter including George Anstey who set sail from Alexandria somewhere about three weeks ago from information which I had off an old pal of his out …” [second page missing]

4th January 1919 – a letter from? stating that no trace of George could be found in the cemetery and no trace at Aleppo (signed – Howard).

14th January, 1919 – a letter to Mrs. Anstey from Trooper E. Weston (Leicester) stating that “they had left George at a place called Aleppo with what we thought was Rheumatism, but we all had got it in our feet and it took us all our time to walk, all the Turks done to us was paint Iodine on. I believe George wrote a letter about two days before Christmas Day and we left there on Boxing morning. George was then in hospital.”

1st February, 1919, in a letter to Mrs. Anstey it was stated that Captain Howard RGH had not been able to find any news at the hospital and that George was now on the missing list.

7th June, Mrs. Anstey had still not given up hope and wrote to George – the letter was returned dated 27th July, 1919, stating that George’s “present location uncertain”.

George Benjamin Anstey is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Panel 60, in Iraq.

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