William Henry Anstey, a member of the Crediton Ansteys, was born in q1 1894 in Lambeth (Stockwell) to father William Anstey. He grew up in London, living at 42 Burton Crescent, St Pancras in 1901 with his extended family, and by the 1911 Census he was living alone with his father William at 65 Herries Street North Kensington W, Paddington, where he was working as a grocer’s porter.
We know only fragments of William’s World War One story as we are unable to locate any Service Records or other such documents. What we do know is that he enlisted right at the outset of war in around August 1914, at Mill Hill in Middlesex. He confirmed his place of birth to be ‘London’ and he was posted to the Duke Of Cambridge’s Own Middlesex Regiment 2nd Battalion as a Private (Service Number: S/6899) – from this Service Number we can deduce that before the conflict began he was already a Special Reservist with the 6th (Extra Reserve) Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.
He arrived in France on 7 November 1914, landing at Havre, and he fought on the Western Front with the British Expeditionary Forces throughout the rest of 1914 and early 1915 – as such he almost certainly fought at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in Artois, France in March 1915. At some point in 1915 he was transferred to the 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment because the next we hear is that he was “killed in action” near Ypres on 29 September 1915 whilst serving as a Private with them.
According to the 4th Middlesex War Diaries, the battalion were at this time positioned on the front line near Sanctuary Wood, Ypres, Belgium. On 25 September 1915 William and his fellow soldiers attacked and captured the German front line trenches and were thence subjected to a barrage of bombardment by German artillery behind the lines. The constant shellings and counterattacks by the Germans trying to dislodge the 4th Middlesex from their advanced trench position were still continuing on 29 September 1915, the day that William succumbed. The War Diary entry for 29 September 1915 states “nothing happened during the morning or afternoon but at about 4.30pm the enemy sprung a mine on the left of the battalion’s front. Shortly afterwards the enemy’s bombers rushed across from the northern side of the crater into the back of B4 (our left trench) clearing the trench before our bombers could get into action…” It is very probably this action which caused William’s demise.
The War Diary later noted that casualties for the 4th Battalion for the above episode, which spanned about a week, were “6 Officers and 32 Men killed…” For the record, William was listed as “Missing” on the ‘Casualty List’ issued by the War Office on 7th November 1915 – he was later confirmed dead.
For his Services William was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, as well as the Victory and British War medals – he is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium on Panel 49.
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