John Trenn Anstey (b 1870)

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

Many thanks to Julia for her help with this biography.

John Trenn Anstey, sometimes mistranscribed as ‘John Kenn Anstey‘ and ‘John Trend Anstey‘, a member of the Exminster Ansteys, was born on 15 September 1870 in Exeter St Thomas to parents James Stokes Anstey and Mary Ann Trent. Given his mother’s maiden name, it is highly likely that John’s middle name was originally ‘Trent’, however for whatever reason it became ‘Trenn’.

John was baptised in 1874 in Exeter, St Thomas as ‘John Trend Anstey’ – the register confirming his parents’ names. He grew up in Boycotts Court, St Thomas the Apostle, St Thomas, Devon with his family and then on 15 September 1888 in Devonport he signed up for 12 years of service with the Royal Navy, with whom according to some sources he served 11 years and according to others he “cancelled by purchase” in November 1895 after serving around 7 years.

According to the ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ 1 July 1891 edition, “John Trenn Anstey, seaman of St Thomas was charged with deserting from HMS Bellerephon on August 2 1890. The Chief Constable said that he had telegraphed to the Admiralty for instructions as to where the prisoner should be sent, but he had not yet received a reply. He now asked that the prisoner might now be remanded – the magistrate acceded to the application

By the 1901 Census, John, a dock labourer, was living in Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, London with various members of the ‘Painter’ family, headed by George Painter (b 1861) and Georgina Painter. He was still there in the 1911 Census, Georgina Painter was now a “widow” living with her various children. A year later in March 1912 the entire Painter family emigrated to Adelaide, Australia on the ship ‘Wakool‘; Georgina was now referred to as “married“. From this, we know that the “John Anstey, farmer” travelling on the exact same boat at the exact same time must be John Trenn Anstey, though why he called himself a “farmer” is a mystery.

[Note: George Painter had already left for Australia a year earlier in February 1911 aboard the ‘Barbarossa‘ ship]

From Adelaide, John and the Painter family moved to Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, where, at the outbreak of World War One, John was living at Cobalt Street, off Iodide Street, Broken Hill. He signed up for active service within weeks of the commencement of the war, on 29 August 1914. On his Attestation Form he said that he was born in Exeter, Devon; single; a miner; Church of England; that he had served “11 years in the Royal Navy, purchased discharge“; and that his next of kin was his “sister, Mrs Painter, Cobalt Street, off Iodide Street, Broken Hill

[Note: we cannot currently establish which of his sisters this was, as we cannot find a ‘Painter/Anstey’ marriage. In fact, current research suggests that Georgina Painter was not actually his ‘sister’ in the formal sense]

John was assigned to the 10th Infantry Battalion ‘E Company’ as a Private (Service Number: 788). The unit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board Transport A11 ‘Ascanius‘ on 20 October 1914 (part of the Australian Imperial Force’s first convoy).

After an eventful voyage, which included the sinking of a German raider ship ‘Emden’ and the collision between ‘Ascanius’ and another vessel, they arrived at Alexandria in Egypt in December 1914 and commenced several months of hard training in the desert. On 2 March 1915 at Alexandria, John embarked the ‘HMT Ionian‘ ship to join the “M. E. F. Gallipoli“.

John took part in the ‘Landing at Anzac Cove‘ in Gallipoli, Turkey on 25 April 1915, emerging physically unscathed from that carnage. However less than a week later, on 1 May 1915, he received a gunshot wound to his left hand during further fighting in Gallipoli. He was transported to Alexandria, Egypt for treatment on 3 May 1915 on ‘HMT Ionian‘ and then on 8 May 1915 transferred to England. By 17 June 1915 John was at the Monte Video Camp, Weymouth and by 18 June 1915, he was in hospital in Manchester.

[Note : “J. T. Anstey Private 788 10th Australian Battalion” was listed as “Wounded” on the Casualty List issued by the War Office on 25 May 1915]

John’s injury clearly precluded him from continuing to fight, for he returned to Australia on 8 October 1915 on the ship ‘Suevic‘, arriving in Melbourne on 19 November 1915 – the ‘Barrier Miner‘ on 20 November 1915 reported “IN AUSTRALIA. SOLDIERS RETURNING TO ADELAIDE. BROKEN HILL MEN INCLUDED. The military authorities notify that sick and wounded soldiers from two hospital ships which have berthed at Melbourne, will arrive in Adelaide on Saturday. One detail will arrive about 12 noon by the train from Melbourne. The names, including names of Broken Hill men, are as follows : … Private J. T. Anstey…

He was discharged from Keswick Barracks, Adelaide on 21 March 1916 for reason “medically unfit, not due to misconduct” with “good character“. For his services, John received the 1914/15 Star, Victory and British War Medals.

After his war service, John returned to Broken Hill. The ‘Barrier Miner‘ 11 December 1917 reported “CHARGES OF ASSAULT. CROSS MATTERS. In the Police” Court this afternoon, before Mr. H. Giles Shaw, John Trenn Anstey and George Painter each charged J. Ferguson with having assaulted them on December 5. Ferguson laid a cross charge of assault against Anstey and Painter. Mr. A.F. Edwards appeared for Anstey and Painter, and Mr. Justin M’Carthy for Ferguson. John Trenn Anstey deposed that on the night of December 5, Ferguson came to Painter’s house and asked for him; after a few words about a wolfram claim at Yanco Glen, Ferguson made use of insulting words, whereupon Painter ordered Ferguson out of the house; Ferguson then struck Painter; he put Ferguson out of the house on to the footpath, and was standing near the gate when Ferguson struck him twice

John died in 1932 after a tragic mining accident, having never married. The ‘Barrier Miner‘ on 27 July 1932 reported “Miner Falls Down Winze And Dies From Injuries BROKEN HILL, July 26. There was a fatal accident at the 825 level of the South mine, just before knock-off time of the day shift today, when John Trenn Anstey, 62, single, fell down a winze.

The ‘Barrier Miner‘ on 28 July 1932 reported “Funeral of Mr. J. T. Anstey The funeral took place yesterday afternoon of Mr. John Trenn Anstey, victim of Tuesday’s fatality on the South mine. The cortege, which left Mrs. E. Brown’s residence at 421 Chapple Street, off Oxide Street, was a long one, and the hearse was preceded by about 30 men representative of the Returned Soldiers’ Association and workmates. The South mine was represented by Messrs. P. H. Thomas and M’Carthy, the Returned Soldiers’ Association by Mr. J. Fisher, and the W.I.U. by Mr. J. Hogan. The floral tributes were numerous, and among them was a dome wreath from Mr. and Mrs. J. Flynn and family. The interment was made in the Church of England Cemetery, the Rev. V. E. Twigg officiating at the grave. The bearers were Messrs. G. Jones, G. Parry (Returned Soldiers’ League), R. Sampson, J. Ashwood, H. Wool man and H. H. Stephens (workmates).

At the inquest into his death, reported in the ‘Barrier Miner‘ on 9 August 1932, it states “NATIVE OF ENGLAND Sergeant J. Hall deposed that he had made inquiries about Anstey. He was 62 years of age and was single. Mr. G. Painter, of 427 Cobalt Street, stated that he knew the deceased for over 30 years in England and Australia. Anstey was born at St Thomas, Exeter, Devonshire, England. He arrived in Australia about 21 years ago, and with the exception of some war service resided in New South Wales. He left no money or property with the exception of personal effects and his life was not insured. He left no will

Note: John Trenn Anstey was living at 421 Cobalt Street, Broken Hill when he died. His friend George Painter in 1936 was hit by a car. He was still living at 427 Cobalt Street and was “aged 66” at the time according to newspaper reports – ie born in 1870. However the official ‘Death Index’ gives George Painter’s year of birth as 1860 confirming he is the same ‘George Painter’ in the 1901 Census.

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