William Arthur Anstey, a member of the Kennford Ansteys, was born in 1887, baptised 8 May 1887 in Beer near Sidmouth, to parents William Anstey and Louisa Selley – he was brother to fellow Anstey Heroes Arthur John Anstey; Harry Anstey; and George Anstey.
[Note: William’s year of birth varies wildly in documentation, from 1887 right up to 1895, though it is certainly the same person]
He grew up living in Sidmouth and by the 1911 Census he was living with his family at 2 The Crescent, Temple Street, Sidmouth, working as a grocer’s assistant.
Just over a year after the outbreak of World War One, on 9 November 1915 at Exeter, William signed up for service with the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry Territorial Force (Service Numbers: 3330 and 3789). Within a month, whilst in training, he had managed to have a serious accident – the ‘Western Times‘ on 10 December 1915 reporting “Extracts from a letter received by the parents on Saturday last concerning William Arthur Anstey Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry read – ‘I must have had a lucky escape. As far as I can remember I was out in the riding school but whether I was kicked or thrown I cannot say. I was unconscious for two or three days. The doctor said I had contracted a fracture of the spine, and I am now in hospital, the least movement in bed drives me nearly mad with pain’. From later information we are glad to say that Anstey is progressing satisfactorily“
The official military report of the above incident states that he was admitted to hospital on 27 November 1915 with “concussion of spine” – the doctor’s opinion was that it was “of a trivial nature and in all probability will not interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier“
The doctor was proved right and by 26 February 1917 William had been transferred to 241 Company of the Machine Gun Corps as a Private (Service Number: 53326). On 1 July 1917 he was training at Belton Park when he was fined for “being late to a church parade whilst on active service“, then on 14 July 1917 he embarked at Southampton, disembarking in Havre a day later.
We know snippets of his service abroad, namely
- He went to “Pigeon Course in the field” on 9 February 1918, returning three days later;
- He had “leave to UK” on 27 August 1918, rejoining his battalion in the field on 11 September 1918; and
- He went to hospital on 21 September 1918 for treatment of a duodenal ulcer.
- At the time of the 1918 Electoral Register he was still registered at 2 The Crescent, Temple Street, Sidmouth but as an ‘absent military voter still on active service’, almost certainly still in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
On 23 March 1919 at Duren, Germany, William was medically examined – by this time he was a Signaller with the 62nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps, indicating that his main Theatre of War had been ‘Rhine’. He confirmed that he had not suffered any disability during the conflict, and he was then returned to England for demobilisation on 30 March 1919.
For his services he was awarded the Victory and British War medals.
By late 1919 William was living at 2 Station Road, Seaton and at the time of the 1921 Census he was living with his parents in Honiton. In 1925 in Honiton he married Kathleen Elsie Sebley – we find no children of this union – and by 1929 they were living at Mooracre in Seaton.
William also served during World War Two (though we have no details), during which a tragedy befell his wife. The ‘Exeter and Plymouth Gazette‘ on 2 August 1940 reported “DIED ON BEACH AFTER BATHE: Mrs Elsie Cathleen Anstey aged about 40, wife of Mr William Anstey, a grocer’s assistant of 9 Mooracre, Seaton, at present serving in H.M. Forces, went for her customary bathe yesterday morning. As she was leaving the water she collapsed and had to be brought onto the beach by Mrs G. Trott who had accompanied her. The doctor was called but he was only able to confirm that Mrs Anstey, who was unconscious when brought ashore, was already dead, it is believed from heart failure“.
William himself died on 28 November 1971 living at 53 Temple Street, Sidmouth.
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