John Robert Anstey (b 1888)

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

John Robert Anstey, known as Jack, a member of the St Kilda, Victoria Ansteys, was born in 1888 in Cheltenham near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, to parents Robert Edwin Anstey and Catherine Cronin (see below for how we know this to be true). The family had moved to Western Australia by around 1900, he was certainly there in c1910, and in 1915 he married Alice Ada Agnes Beard (b 1897) in Wellington, Western Australia.

Jack first tried to sign up for active service during World War One in January 1916 at the Central Recruiting Office in Perth. He was a “mill hand at Argyle Saw Mill” but his application was rejected because of “Hernia abdominal weakness“.

Six months later, in June 1916 in Perth, Jack tried to sign up again; this time he was successful, taking his oath on 5 June 1916. In his Attestation Form, Jack confirmed that he was born in Cheltenham in 1888; he gave his address as 12 Lacey Street, Donnybrook, East Perth; he stated that he was a railway employee and that he was Roman Catholic. He became a Private (Service Number: 6713 – also Reference ‘A50716’) with the 11th Infantry Battalion, 22nd Reinforcements, 3rd Brigade.

After a period of training at 75 Depot (as well as a stint in hospital), Jack departed from Freemantle on 9 November 1916 on the ship HMAT ‘A8 Argyllshire‘, disembarking in Devonport, England on 10 January 1917. He was admitted to hospital almost immediately on arrival in England with “Hernia and bronchitis“, remaining in hospital until 23 March 1917.

On 3 May 1917 Jack proceeded to France from Folkestone, part of the “3rd Training Battalion, Darrington“, joining the 11th Battalion in the field on 10 May 1917. He was admitted to hospital again in early July 1917, rejoining the 11th Battalion in the field on 4 August 1917. He was again taken to hospital on 5 August 1917, this time permanently classified as “debility“. As such, Jack returned to England at the beginning of September 1917 and was transferred to 1st Auxiliary. On 11 January 1918, Jack returned to Australia, having been recommended for “discharge due to debility, hernia and bronchitis“. He disembarked in Albany on 26 February 1918, and was formally discharged on 17 March 1918. For his services, Jack received the 1914/15 Start, British War and Victory Medals.

After the war was over, Jack returned to Alice in Perth and they had children Herbert Alfred Anstey (b 1921 Donnybrook, known as Bert); Catherine Anstey (known as Cath); Jacqueline Anstey; and Terence John Anstey (b 1932 Subiaco, known as Terry – has Anstey descendants alive today). In 1931 Jack and his family were living at 58 Shakespeare Street, Mt Hawthorn, Perth, then in the 1939 Electoral Roll, both Jack (a labourer) and his wife Alice were living at 375 William Street in Perth.

Jack also signed up for service during World War Two, his Enrolment Form confirming that he was a labourer living 382 William Street, Perth. He enlisted at Claremont on 4 October 1940 and was declared fit for “Class II” Service. He was attached to both the 10 Garrison Battalion and later the 29 Garrison Battalion in Australia, and he was discharged from duty on 2 June 1943.

The 1943 Electoral Roll notes that Jack and Alice were living with Jack’s brother Terence Edwin Anstey at 382 William Street, Perth. Alice Anstey died in Perth in 1954, and Jack died a few years later in Perth in 1962 “aged 74“; they were both buried at Karrakatta Cemetery in the Roman Catholic section, plot reference “Roman Catholic-Ia-0447“.

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Research Note – Jack’s parents: Even though we cannot find Jack’s birth entry confirming his parents’ names, everything (except one piece of documentation) points to him being the son of Robert Edwin Anstey and Catherine Cronin. For example:

  • the only Ansteys we find born in Cheltenham near Melbourne any time between c1850 and c1925 are from the St Kilda, Victoria family;
  • ‘Terrence’ is a fairly rare name in the Anstey pedigree – and Jack named a son ‘Terence’, after his brother Terence Edwin Anstey (b 1887 Cheltenham);
  • Like Jack, his sister Queenie May Anstey (b 1890 Cheltenham) also does not appear to have a birth entry in Cheltenham, but she was certainly born there;
  • Like Jack, his brother Terence Edwin Anstey (b 1887 Cheltenham) moved from Cheltenham, Victoria to Western Australia as a young man, married in Wellington, Western Australia, was Roman Catholic, and was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery. The brothers were also living in the same house in the 1943 Electoral Roll, and Jack and Alice wrote “ANSTEY. Terence Edwin. died suddenly. October 13. loving brother of Jack brother-in-law of Alice loving uncle of Bert, Cath, Jacqueline and Terry. Happy memories” in the ‘West Australian‘ on 14 October 1943 after Terence Edwin Anstey’s sudden death.

The only evidence against this connection is that in Jack’s ‘Death Index‘ entry, his parents were given as “John Anstey and Catherine“, rather than “Robert Edwin Anstey and Catherine“. This must be a transcription mistake, especially as we find zero “John Anstey“/”Catherine” marriages in Australia at the correct time.

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