Joseph Anstee (1890-1916)

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

See ‘Anstey: A Complete History From the Norman Invasion to World War One‘ for much more on the Ivinghoe Anstees. In addition to biographies of various Anstey individuals who make up this sub-branch, the book contains a plethora of Anstey research and statistics, including an analysis of how the Ivinghoe Anstees fit into the pedigree descendent from Hubert de Anesti, the 12th century originator of the ‘Anstey’ surname.

IV 18. Joseph Anstee: Known as Joe, he was born in 1890 in West Deeping, Lincolnshire to parents William Albert Anstee (IV 6) and Mary Millard – he grew up in West Deeping, living at The Mill, Church Lane, West Deeping with his family in the 1911 Census, where he was assisting in the milling business. Per the ‘West Deeping Heritage Group‘ “Local newspapers often reported on Joe’s musical performances, playing the piano or singing. He was a keen cricketer too and as a 15 year old he outshone his elder brother and helped the village team win against Uffington. At 23, Joe was the Honorary Secretary of West Deeping Reading Room, the old school room. This was a popular haunt of the men and lads, including the Anstee boys, before the war. As a Freemason of the St Guthlac’s Lodge, he probably had many friends among the other men of the Deepings who went off to war.

In his early adulthood, he signed up for military training with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps in Berkhamsted, then in October 1915, after the start of World War One, he was commissioned to the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant (confirmed in the ‘Hull Daily Mail‘ on 7 October 1915).

In May 1916, still a 2nd Liuetenant, he went to Northern France from England, readying himself for the first British offensive of the Battle of the Somme. On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of Albert, Joe and his battalion attacked the German front near Albert in Northern France. Together with the 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment, they were at the centre of the line, leading the attack on Ovillers-la-Boisselle.

Joe was one of those responsible for getting the men out of the trenches and lining them up to charge across no man’s land towards the German front line. Running straight into the German artillery barrage, the attack failed almost immediately. Joe was one of those who was killed on the first day of this battle, together with over fifty thousand of his fellow Allied soldiers. His Commanding Officer Lieutenant Hubbard wrote to Joe’s parents, telling them that:

2nd Lieutenant Anstee was hit with shrapnel half way across during the assault. I bandaged him up, and whilst awaiting him to be taken back behind the line he was hit again in the chest and died almost instantaneously. We were moved out of the trenches into another area that afternoon, so were unable to collect our dead and wounded… I can’t express what his loss is to us. He was a splendid officer and loved by all, and one of the cheeriest and best boys I have ever met, and can well understand what a terrible loss he is to you, as he is to us.

The ‘Grantham Journal‘ on 15 July 1916 reported “Mr W. Anstee of the Mill has received notice that his son Mr Jos Anstee, has been killed in action in France. Since joining the Army Mr Anstee had quickly risen in the ranks, being promoted to Lieutenant, and was held in high esteem by both officers and men.

The ‘Lincolnshire Echo‘ on 21 July 1916 reported “Sec Lieut J. Anstee Lincolnshire Regiment was the younger son of Mr and Mrs W. A. Anstee West Deeping. He received his training at the Inns of Court O.T.C and took his commission in the Lincolnshire Regiment last October, and went to France about two months ago. Wounded in the chest in the big advance, he was being conveyed to a dressing station when a shell burst close to and fatally wounded him as he lay on the ambulance. Deceased was a member of the St Guthlac’s (Market Deeping) Lodge of Freemasons.”

The ‘Peterborough Standard‘ 22 July 1916 edition has a photo of him on page 7 with caption “The Late Lieut Anstee – son of Mr W. Anstee of the Mill West Deeping. Killed in Action“.

He is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial (Panel & Face 1C), also in West Deeping where there is an Anstee family memorial with inscription ‘Lt J Anstee Killed in action in France July 1st 1916 Aged 26′. For his services he was awarded the Victory and British War medals.

A scroll given to his mother after his death commemorating his sacrifice is currently held at Peterborough Museum – per the ‘West Deeping Heritage Group‘ “Hidden behind an old picture from an antiques shop in Peterborough, were a condolence message signed by King George V and a scroll commemorating 2nd Lt Joseph Anstee. The documents had been donated to the Museum as no relatives could be traced. The scroll would have been sent to Joseph’s parents in 1920 but Joseph’s father, William, died in 1919, so it was probably his mother Mary [who died in Peterborough in 1945] who tucked the certificate behind the picture to keep it safe.

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