Reuben Anstey (1876-1918)

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

Reuben Anstey, a member of the St Luke Holborn Ansteys, was born in St Luke, Holborn in 1876 to parents William Anstey and Eliza Cook. He was the brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Garnet Anstey and Ernest Anstey, spending most of his childhood living in Shoreditch.

Reuben married Eliza Ann Gilkes at St John of Jerusalem Church in South Hackney on Christmas Day 1898; at the time he was living at 42 North Street, Hackney. By the 1901 Census they were living at 49 Abingdon Buildings, Bethnal Green – Reuben was an “Engraver“. By the 1911 Census they were living at 84 Spencer Road Stoke Newington where Reuben was an “Engineer“.

We cannot locate Reuben’s Service Record and thus have only a fairly sketchy understanding of his role during World War One. We do know that during the conflict Reuben was attached to many different Service Corps of the Royal Engineers, first as a Private and later a Sapper, being:

  • Royal Fusiliers, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Royal Engineers (Service Number: 11216);
  • King’s Royal Rifle Corps (Service Number: A/203364);
  • Royal Engineers (Service Number: 282717 or 282719); and
  • Royal Engineers (Service Number: WR/273692)

On 15 December 1916, whilst a Rifleman with ‘B’ Company of the 21st Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (Service Number: 11216) he was admitted to the 139th Field Ambulance – at this time he had been in service for 23 months, and “in the field force” for 4 months (so presumably he enlisted in around December 1914 and was called up in around August 1916).

We also know that on 15 June 1918, whilst a Sapper with the Royal Engineers 63rd C. M. C. Battalion (Service Number: 282717), Reuben (religion: “Church of England“) was “transferred from sick convoy [and] transferred to furlough (Command Depot)“. His ailment was “Haemorrhoids” and he was discharged back to duty on 12 August 1918. At this point he had “3 years 5 months of service” and “9 months with field force“, so he must have signed up for active service in early 1915, and been “in the field” since late 1917.

Reuben survived the war, however he died in an unfortunate accident on 19 December 1918, a month after hostilities had formally ceased. The ‘Sheffield Daily Telegraph‘ on 23 December 1918 reported “Reuben Anstey (42) Royal Engineers, of Arcola Street Poplar, was killed by a motor bus in Balls’ Pond Road, while home on leave pending discharge. The verdict on Saturday was ‘accidental death’“.

Reuben was buried in Tottenham Park Cemetery. He is also commemorated at Edmonton Cemetery, which suggests that he was likely taken to North Middlesex Hospital after the motor bus accident. For his services, he was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Reuben left behind a widow, Eliza, and their four children Beatrice Victoria Anstey (b 1900 Hackney); Evelyn Anstey (b 1902); Rosanna Anstey (b 1904); and Reuben Anstey (b 1907).

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