Harold John Anstey (b 1881)

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

Harold John Anstey, a member of the Broadclyst Ansteys, was born in 1881 in Truro, baptised 16 September 1881 in Truro, to parents John Upham Anstey and Elizabeth Burrington. He grew up living at St Nicholas Street, Truro St Mary and by the 1901 Census he was an unmarried reporter boarding at 4 Chetwynd Road, Portsmouth (birth confirmed as “Cornwall in 1880“). By the 1911 Census he was an unmarried journalist boarding at 101 Orchard Road, Southsea, Portsmouth (birth now confirmed as “Truro Cornwall in 1878“).

The ‘Kenilworth Advertiser‘ 27 November 1920 noted that “Mr H. J. Anstey, a Nuneaton journalist, who is taking up a position in South Africa, has been given a farewell presentation by his colleagues

The ‘Hampshire Telegraph‘ on 4 November 1932 provides us with a detailed (if somewhat inaccurate in places) biography of Harold, most of which sounds somewhat journalistically embellished – certainly we cannot independently confirm some of the claims within, and some are most certainly false.

The biography (or possibly autobiography) states “Former Portsmouth Journalist’s Death. Mr H. J. Anstey:… We deeply regret to record the death of Mr. Harold John Anstey, chief subeditor of the ‘Daily Dispatch,’ who passed away peacefully in his sleep early yesterday morning (October 11) after a brief illness. Born in Liverpool [???] in 1873 [???], Mr Anstey was of an old Devonshire family and was educated at Eastbourne College, where he gained his colours in first XI. After leaving school he spent some time in Devonshire before signing professional forms for the well-known, and in those days very prominent, English league team Derby County, for whom he played right half behind the famous Steve Bloomer [??]. In his third season however he had the misfortune to break his leg and this prevented him from continuing his career as a professional footballer. At the age of 22 he entered journalism through the medium of the Portsmouth Times on which paper he served from 1895 to 1914. He had the good fortune to receive his training under the editorship of Mr G. L. Green, and in a very short space of time he was appointed Chief Reporter of the Times, of which he later became assistant editor. In February 1897 Mr Anstey joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment under Colonel Sir Arthur Holbrook KBE, who was proprietor of the ‘Portsmouth Times’ and served in that battalion until 1901.

On 5 August 1914, the day after war was declared, Mr Anstey at the age of 41 joined the Hampshire Regiment for active service and had the satisfaction, after having reduced his age to meet the requirements of the Recruiting Act, of being gazetted as class A1. After a few weeks training he went with the First 6th Battalion to India where he remained until the spring of 1915 when his regiment was ordered to Mesopotamia. Mr Anstey was severely wounded on three occasions during this campaign but was back in line again when General Maude made his successful attack on Baghdad. It speaks well for Mr Anstey’s stamina that he served throughout the whole campaign without a single leave to England. Nevertheless his four years fighting in a blistering and disease infested country completely ruined his health and on his demobilisation with the rank of Sergeant in 1919 he found it impossible to live in a cold climate. Returning to civil life in 1919 he obtained a position on the ‘Midhurst Times’ after which he was appointed sub-editor of the ‘Nuneaton Chronicle’ which he left in November 1920 to take up an appointment on the ‘Daily Dispatch’ at East London. Mr Anstey arrived in South Africa on December 16 1920 and in very short time was one of the most popular and highly respected members of the dispatch staff.

Known to all his friends as Bill, Mr Anstey though exceedingly reserved and shy, possessed a charming personality, had a keen sense of humour and was a delightful companion. The years he spent in Mesopotamia and the severe wounds he received while there, from which he never really recovered, made it increasingly difficult for hi, to withstand the vagaries of the climate and for the last few years he suffered greatly from bronchial trouble and a weak heart. He will be greatly missed – sincere sympathy will be extended to Mr Anstey’s two sisters in England, in the loss they have sustained

All we can add to the above is that Harold was an Acting Corporal with the Hampshire Regiment (Service Numbers: 1845 and 280541) during World War One, receiving the Victory and British War medals for his service. Then on 27 November 1920, he embarked for South Africa from Southampton aboard the ship ‘Edinburgh Castle‘, travelling in 1st Class and describing himself as “a journalist“, intending to land in East London, South Africa.

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

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