John William Anstee, a member of the Potsgrove Anstees, was born on 24 August 1890 (some sources incorrectly state 1891) in Leicester to parents John Anstee and Mary Ann Russell, baptised at Leicester, St Mary de Castro on 18 October 1892. He was brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Harry Russell Anstee, Arthur Richard Anstee and Harold Anstee, growing up at 20 Hawthorne Street, Leicester, where he was a butcher’s assistant in the 1911 Census.
On 17 June 1915 in Leicester, John married Edith Ellen Aldridge; they had at least two children in Leicester, Kenneth A. Anstee (b 1921) and Edith G. Anstee (b 1926). Later in the same year, on 9 December 1915 and around a year after the commencement of World War One, John enlisted for service in Leicester with the Army. On his Attestation Form he noted that he was living at 41 Worthington Street, Leicester; that he was married; and that he was a “bakers van man and cook“.
He was mobilised for service on 8 April 1916, initially with the Leicestershire Regiment (Service Number: 27608), however he was almost immediately reposted to the ’10th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment’. Then in July 1916 he was posted to the Base Depot, British Expeditionary Force, and then in August 1916 posted to the ‘2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment’ (Service Number: 24219).
Soon after this John embarked for France to fight on the Western Front, then on 6 December 1917 he was “promoted to Corporal and appointed Acting Sergeant for good work in the field“. This would certainly be as a result of actions in which he took part during the Battle of Cambrai in late November and early December 1917.
Then on 22 March 1918, the second day of the Battle of St Quentin (the opening battle of the 1918 German Spring Offensive), John was “captured at Haplipcourt“, fortunately unwounded, and taken Prisoner of War by the Germans, spending the rest of the war at Parchim Prisoner of War camp in Hamburg, Germany. He was belatedly “reported missing” in the ‘War Office Daily List No. 5623‘ on 20 July 1918.
The ‘International Red Cross Prisoner of War Archives‘ has a card giving further details of his time as a Prisoner of War, noting “ANSTEE J. W. Sergt No 24219 ‘A’ Company 1 Plat South Staffs B. E. F. Missing 22.3.18 France. Rep Mrs Edith Anstee wife 41 Worthington Street, Leicester… born 24.8.91 Sutton arrived from West Front at Parchim unwounded 24.3.18 communique famille 24.7.18“.
After the war was over and Prisoners of War were released, John rejoined his unit on 26 December 1918. He was repatriated to England, at which point he proceeded to ‘South Staffs Lichfield Depot (Repatriated Prisoners of War)‘. This was reported in the ‘War Office Daily List No. 5772‘ on 15 January 1919 “Anstee J. W. Acting Sergeant 24219 (Leicester) South Staffordshire Regiment Released Prisoner of War from Germany, arrived in England“.
In January 1919 in Leicester, John signed a form “relinquishing the unexpired portion of his two months Prisoner of War furlough” and he was then discharged on 28 February 1919 due to demobilisation and returned to his old job as a van man at the bakery. For his services, he was awarded the Victory and British War medals, which were delivered to him in 1921.
John’s wife Edith died in 1926 in Leicester so on 3 April 1927, whilst still living at 41 Worthington Street, Leicester he remarried to Annie Louisa Soden at Leicester, St Peter’s – they had at least one son William D. Anstee (b 1928). In the 1939 Register he was still married, living at 15 Cork Lane, Blaby, Leicester – a ‘journeyman pork butcher’ by trade.
John died on 24 April 1969, still living in Leicester, at the Yenwoods, Beggars La Enderby.
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