William Henry Anstee, known sometimes as ‘William Junior’, a member of the Potsgrove Anstees, was born in 1895 in Leicester, baptised in St George’s Leicester on 28 September 1900 “aged 7“, to parents William Henry Anstee and Ellen Parr. He grew up in Leicester and in the 1911 Census he was a butchers errand boy living with his family at 16 Richard Street, Leicester. On 4 July 1914 in Leicester St Matthews he married Florence Maxfield – at this time he was a butcher living at 1 Russell Street, Leicester.
William volunteered for service very early in World War One, indeed he was very likely in the Territorials before the commencement of war, however we cannot locate any Service or Medical Records for him to confirm this. Assuming we are correct then he was embodied with the 2/4th Leicestershire Regiment in September 1914, and in April 1916 moved to Ireland to help quell the troubles there, returning to Fovant in England in January 1917.
He was certainly a Corporal with the 2/4th Leicestershire Regiment (Service Number: 30482) when they mobilised for war and landed in France on 24 February 1917. He fought in the Battle of Menin Road Ridge in mid-September 1917, part of the Third Battle of Ypres, then he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917.
The Battalion War Diary on the day he died describes his final hours “At 3.15am our preliminary bombardment started. At 5.50am our barrage opened and leading waves of the C and D Companies went over the top to time followed by B Company at distance of 100 yards. At 6.10am the 4th LINCOLNSHIRE REGT crossed our trench and went up in support. At 10.00am following message received by telephone, ‘half way to first objective, casualties light progressing satisfactorily’. At 6.20am first German prisoners began to come in helping many of our wounded. At 6.20am following message received. ‘First objectives taken, casualties light consolidation proceeding’. Consolidation proceeded with satisfactorily under rather heavy shell fire. We found all current emplacements smashed in by our artillery. We used B Company as defensive Company to our right flank. Our casualties up to now approximately 70 including Captain A. SILVER, 2nd Lt. J. C. SMITH. 11.30am news came through that the LINCOLNSHIRE REGT had taken all objectives and were consolidating. Our barrage fire continued practically all the day with all intensity hitherto unprecedented. The Germans also shelled the whole area continuously and our casualties mounted steadily. Battalion has moved to D.20a.8.5. 6.30pm owing to a misunderstanding certain troops holding front trenches in our Brigade sector were seen to withdraw. This unfortunately provided a more or less general retirement along the whole front. Although very few men of this Battalion left the trenches. By the efforts of officers the retirement was stopped at the old British front line and a general advance commenced. The trench system was all reoccupied and reorganisation of various units proceeded with by 7.45pm. During the day we captured 5 machine guns and 2 bomb throwers.“
The ‘Leicester Evening Mail‘ on 23 November 1917 contains a photo of William next to the caption “Corporal William Henry Anstee of the Leicesters was killed in action on September 26th. He lived at 16 Richard Street, Leicester and was employed at Folwells in the market place before enlistment“
The ‘Leicester Chronicle‘ on 5 April 1919 reported “Buried at: Bridge House Cemetery Godley Road Corner near Wieltje 30482 Corpl W. H. Anstee 26-9-17” (Bridge House Cemetery, Langemarck, Belgium plot ‘A17’ – additional information given “Son of Mr. and Mrs. Anstee; husband of Florence Anstee“).
For his services, William was posthumously awarded the Victory and British War medals.
William’s widow Florence had a child Ada Winifred Anstee (b 1920 Leicester) and then later remarried James Henry Bond in 1926 – she was still living at 18 Russell Street, Leicester at that time.
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