William Charles Annesty, a member of the Garnish, Fortune Bay Ansteys, was born on 14 December 1898 (some sources say 14 December 1896 or 1897) in North Sydney to parents George Samuel Annesty and Cornelia ‘Carrie’ F. Maugher [Major]. He grew up living in Cape Breton (North Victoria) in a Methodist household where he was still living in the 1911 Canadian Census.
Around a year after the start of World War One, on 11 November 1915, William signed up for active service in North Sydney with the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Private (Service Number: 167011). On his Attestation Form he noted that his date of birth was 14 December 1896; that he was a “lineman” (“telegraphy“) by trade; and that he already had three years of military experience in the “cadets“.
William was shipped straight to England, arriving there on 14 December 1915; then on 16 December 1915 he was posted to the 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion. A couple of months later he caught influenza and was admitted to hospital in Stagely Down from 11 February 1916 to 21 February 1916.
William embarked for France on 9 March 1916 and was admitted to ‘No 6 Field Ambulance’ in the field with “impetigo legs” on 23 March 1916 – he was discharged back to duty on the front line on 29 March 1916. This was just in time for him to be involved in the horrific Actions of St Eloi Craters just south of Ypres.
On 7 April 1916 during these ‘actions’ at St Eloi, William “was knocked down by a bursting shell and buried by it“. He suffered serious shell shock; defective vision; and almost complete memory loss – indeed he stated afterwards to medical officers that he remembered nothing whatsoever of the incident.
On 10 April 1916 he was admitted to No 14 General Hospital in Wernenry? “wounded with shell shock” and he was transferred to C. C. A. C. on the same day and back to England via Folkestone. On 12 April 1916 he was admitted to Southend Victoria Hospital with “shell shock“; he was then transferred to the Canadian Division Convalescent Hospital, and thence to Shorncliffe Hospital by end June 1916.
After three months of convalescence with little progress, William was discharged on 11 September 1916 at the Station C. C. A. C. in England, still suffering from “loss of memory and shell shock” – he was deemed “very nervous, eyesight greatly impaired, cannot remember being in France or any incident that has happened since childhood“.
William declared before the Canadian ‘Pensions and Claims Board‘ in Bath that his present condition of heath was “poor” and he was “fit for no work” – nor had he been promised any work on discharge. His disability was officially “loss of memory and impairment of vision” – with “total incapacity for the present“.
It was also noted that William had “served in France for two months, general service including in the trenches” with the “2nd Canadian Pioneers Battalion at the front from January 1916 to April 1916“.
William returned to Canada on 29 September 1916 on the ship ‘Olympic’, arriving in Halifax on 5 October 1916. He was allowed to return home to North Sydney for two weeks or more and then he received further treatment at the Sanitarium/ Convalescent Home “MD No 6 North Sydney“. By December 1916 he was at the Ross Military Convalescent Home.
In early April 1918 William was re-examined in Canada and deemed fit for “home service (Category C)“. On 13 April 1918 he was posted to the ‘6th Battalion C. G. R.’ [Canadian Garrison Regiment], but he was struck off strength a couple of months later on 13 June 1918 as “medically unfit, still suffering from shell shock” and again discharged in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
His Discharge Report noted “This soldier states that he cannot control himself at times and since returning says he is not able to carry on as a soldier. Very forgetful, unable to remember any order or duties that are given to him. Very excitable“. However it was deemed that William would be able to resume his former civilian occupation after discharge. His Discharge Report also noted that he had served a total of 2 years 8 months service with the 2nd Canadian Pioneers and 6th Battalion C. G. R. Regiment.
By March 1919 William was living at R. N. W. M. P, Dawson, Yukon Territory (North West Mounted Police) and referred to as “Constable W. Annesty” – he had become a ‘Canadian Mountie’. On 15 April 1927 he married Ellen Barbara Leaney in New Westminster – at the time of his marriage he was an unmarried logger living at 1620 Alberni Street, Vancouver (still Methodist). They had at least one son, George William Annesty (b 1930 Winnipeg, Manitoba).
William died on 17 March 1952, buried at Mountain View Cemetery, Trail, Kootenay Boundary Regional District, British Columbia, Canada.
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