James Anstey (1885-1918)

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

James Anstey, a member of the Milborne Port Anstys, was born in q3 1885 in Alderbury/Salisbury to parents James Anstey and Agnes Pearcey. His mother died at the same time he was born, and we have no idea what became of his father, so he was brought up by his grandparents William and Louisa Parsons.

[Note: James mother Agnes Pearcey’s parents were Reuben Pearcey and Louisa Lawrence. After Reuben Pearcey died, Louisa Pearcey remarried to William Parsons in q1 1891 in Wilton.]

James was living with his grandparents at Deptford, Wylye, Wilton, Wiltshire in the 1891 Census and he was still living with his widowed grandmother Louisa Parsons at Deptford, Wylye in the 1901 Census, working as a farm boy.

James married Amy Smith in 1908 in Warminster and they had children Alfred [Albert] George Anstey (b 1909 – see below); Frederick James Anstey (b 1911 – see below); and Agnes A. Anstey (b 1913 Westbury – see below). In the 1911 Census the family were living at Eden Vale, Westbury where James was working as a parcel carman for the Great Western Railway Company.

James must have already been attached to the Royal Field Artillery well before the outbreak of World War One (probably as a Territorial) because he mobilised right at the outbreak of war in early August 1914, as a Gunner with the 45th Battery of the 42nd Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery (Service Number: 27163). Just a couple of weeks later, on 19 August 1914, he was already in France with his unit as part of the 3rd Infantry Division of the British Expeditionary Forces.

He took part in the very first battle of the war, the Battle of Mons beginning 23 August 1914, and then and at some point in late 1914 he was taken Prisoner of War in Mons by the Germans, having been wounded during the earlier fighting (partially confirmed by the Casualty List issued by the War Office on 2 October 1914 where he was listed as “Wounded“).

James spent the rest of the war as a prisoner in Frankfurt – ‘The Scotsman‘ newspaper on 5 August 1915 finally confirmed his capture when it noted “Previously Reported Missing now Reported Prisoner of War: Royal Field Artillery: Anstey 27163 Driver J” and the same newspaper on 30 October 1915 again reported “Prisoners of War Royal Field Artillery: Anstey 27163 Gnr J

Whilst a Prisoner of War multiple tragedies befell his family. Firstly in q4 1914 their son Alfred George Anstey died – the ‘Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser‘ on 28 April 1917 confirming that “Mr and Mrs James Anstey of Westbury lost a child about two years ago shortly after Mrs Anstey’s husband (Gunner Anstey formerly employed at G. W. R. Station) was taken Prisoner of War in Germany.

Then in 1917, his other son died – the ‘Western Daily Press‘ reporting on 23 April 1917 “Prisoner of War’s Son Killed”: Westbury (Wilts). An inquest was held concerning the death of Fredk. James Anstey, aged six years. The lad was returning from school, and ran out from behind a wagon. A horse, drawing a milk float, going in the opposite direction, knocked the boy down, and his skull was fractured, death being instantaneous. The jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental death’ and expressed sympathy with the mother whose husband (formerly employed by the G.W.R. Company) is a prisoner of war in Germany.”

The ‘Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser’ 28 April 1917 reported “German Treatment of Prisoners: Gunner J. Anstey is now a prisoner of war at Sagan, Germany. In a recent letter that his wife received from him, he states that only three parcels a month are arriving, whereas they ought to have six, and the food they were getting was not enough to live on

The final tragedy came when, just a month before the end of the war, on 22 October 1918, James himself died of ‘Grippe’ (Russian Influenza) whilst still “a prisoner of war in Germany“. There was an investigation into his death on 22 December 1918, the results of which (confirming death from ‘Grippe’) were communicated to his wife on 22 January 1919.

The ‘Weekly Casualty List‘ from the War Office on 25 February 1919 belatedly reported “Previously missing, now reported DIED AS PRISONERS OF WAR IN GERMAN HANDS. ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY.—Anstey 27163 Gnr. J. (Westbury)

James was buried/commemorated at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery/Memorial in Poland – additional note given as “Husband of Amy Anstey, of Leigh Rd., Westbury, Wilts.“. For his services he was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star Medal, as well as the Victory and British War medals.

On 4 October 1924 the ‘Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser‘ reported “Memorial Tablet to Fallen Men of the Parish: Erected on the wall of the south side of the knave of the Church of the Holy Saviour is a white marble tablet on which are inscribed the names of the men of the parish who paid the supreme sacrifice in the war. On the tablet there is inscribed ‘Their name Liveth for Evermore. To the Glory of God, and honour of the men of Westbury Leigh who laid down their lives the Great War 1914-19. …James Anstey…‘”

On 12 August 1939 the ‘Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser‘ reported “Death of Mrs A. Anstey. The Death occurred on Sunday at the age of 56, of Mrs. Amy Anstey, of 68 Leigh Road, Westbury. She had been in failing health for some months. She was the widow of Mr. James Anstey and had lived in Westbury for many years. She was a very active member of the Upper Congregational Church…she leaves one daughter… Miss A, Anstey…”

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

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