William Anstee (1873-1917)

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

William Anstee, a Marylebone Anstee, was born in 1873 in Marylebone to parents John Edward Anstee and Margaret Costello; he was brother to fellow Anstey Hero Frederick Anstee. Unfortunately we cannot locate him in the 1881 Census but we know that at some point pre-1891 he became a sailor.

According to the 1891 ‘England & Wales Merchant Navy Crew Lists‘ William was an Ordinary Seaman aboard the ship ‘Bessie‘ from July 1891 to December 1891. His previous ship had been ‘Guiding Star‘, also in 1891.

[Note: Likely the same person is the ‘William Anstee’ (b 4 November 1871 Marylebone according to his Service Record) who joined the Royal Navy in January 1888 (Service Number: 144080 – presumably joining as a ‘Boy’) and served until 26 January 1889 until he was “discharged at shore Chatham own request“]

In March 1899 in Durham, William, a 27 year old sailor, was indicted for “causing wilful damage to two plate glass windows“. He had previously been “twice fined for drunkenness between 1896 and 1899“. A couple of months later, again in Durham, he was indicted for a much more serious offence. The ‘Shields Daily News‘ on 15 July 1899 reported “A Brutal Offence: William Anstee (27) sailor, stood indicted with wounding Rosetta Coppoch, with intent to do grievous bodily harm at South Shields on 12 April. The allegation was that the prisoner, who was a stranger to the prosecutrix, accosted her in the street, and on her refusing to give him the price of a nights lodgings, struck her down and drew a knife across her face, inflicting two wounds, which it was stated would leave a permanent disfigurement. Prisoner alleged provocation which was denied – a verdict of guilty was returned, and prisoner was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment [with hard labour] the judge remarking that he had been guilty of a particularly brutal offence.”

After serving his sentence, William was soon in trouble again – the ‘Shields Daily Gazette‘ on 31 July 1901 reporting “At South Shields to-day, William Anstee, 29, a seaman, lodging at Levy’s boarding house, Nelson’s Bank, was charged with being drunk and disorderly…he was further charged with damaging a plate glass window and assaulting Wm Chubbs, barman” – he was committed for a total of four months.

From July 1906 to December 1906 William was an Able Seaman working aboard the vessel ‘Lord Devon‘ and by the 1911 Census he was again a prisoner in Durham Union Workhouse Prison – described as an unmarried 38 year sailor born in Marylebone.

At the outbreak of World War One, in early October 1914, William volunteered for service, describing himself as a “33 year 11 month old unmarried seaman, born in Marylebone, Roman Catholic, currently at address 134 Bethnal Green Road” – he also stated that he had previously been “sentenced to imprisonment by a civil power” and that he had never served in the Royal Navy. He gave his next of kin as “mother – Margaret Anstee 134 Bethnal Green Road”.

He was posted to ‘A’ Company of the 3rd Hull Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment (Service Number: 835) and a few weeks later on 13 November 1914 he was discharged in Hull “his not being likely to become an efficient soldier“.

At some point later in the conflict William became attached to the Mercantile Marine (Reserve) Regiment (Service Number: 780862). It is very likely him who was aboard the ‘SS Arawa‘ in December 1916 when he deserted in Cape Town, South Africa and was brought back to East Ham to be charged. Per the ‘West Ham and South Essex Mail‘ 08 December 1916 edition William stated it was because “he was dissatisfied with the conditions on the ship. There were too many boys on deck and only 4 Able Seamen on a vessel of 12,000 tons“.

On 19 October 1917 he was an Able Seaman aboard ‘S.S. Hazelwood‘ (a steamer carrying a cargo of coal from Tyne towards Nantes in France to help the war effort) when it was torpedoed east of Portland Bill by a German U-Boat, sinking quickly and losing all 32 men on board, including William. Additional information gleaned is that “W. Anstee age 38 Able Seaman Born London last living at the Seaman’s Institute South Shields drowned when the Hazelwood was sunk by the enemy“.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission William is commemorated at Tower Hill Memorial, where there is additional information “Son of Margaret Anstee (nee Costello), of 8, Hutchison Avenue, Aldgate, London, and the late John Anstee. Born at Marylebone.

For his services William was posthumously awarded the British War medal.

Anybody who would like to add anything to this biography please contact us at research@theansteystory.com.

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