William Henry Anstey, a member of the Castle Cary Ansteys, was born on 17 April 1896 in Eton to single mother Elizabeth Mary Anstey. He attended Pen-Y-Bont Boys School, Bridgend in 1904, his ‘father’ was confirmed as William Clarke (who was actually his stepfather, living with his mother at 5 Chilternham Terrace, Windsor).
We cannot locate William in the 1911 Census, nor can we locate his Army Service Record, but we know that at some point during the early years of World War One he signed up for active service in Slough (possibly in September 1914) – at the time of his enlistment he was living in Windsor. We also know that he was posted to the 2/1st Bucks Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (Service Numbers: 2591 and 265841), presumably as a Private.
As such it is very likely he was already in the Territorials before the outbreak of war, and thus after embodiment with the 2/1st Bucks Battalion in September 1914 at Aylesbury they moved to Northampton in January 1915; thence to Writtle and Broomfield in Essex in April 1915. In January 1916 they moved to Parkhouse Camp on Salisbury Plain and readied for war, landing in France on 24 May 1916.
By August 1916 William had been promoted to Sergeant and he was fighting on the Western Front when he was wounded – the ‘Northampton Mercury‘ on 25 August 1916 confirming “Local Casualties: Oxon and Bucks L.I. …. Anstey, 2591, Sergt. W.H. (Winslow)“. As a result of this injury, William was entitled to wear a Wound Stripe (he was also listed as “Wounded” on the Casualty List issued by the War Office on 22 August 1916).
The next we hear of him is almost exactly a year later on 22 August 1917 when he was “killed in action” near St Julien, Ypres “age 21” whilst still serving as a Sergeant with the 2/1st Bucks Battalion.
The attack on 22 August 1917 in which William was killed is described in detail in ‘The story of the 2/4th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry‘ where it states:
“On the following night [21st August] Companies assembled for the attack. Neither the starting place nor the objectives for this are easily described by reference to surrounding villages. The nearest was St. Julien. The operation orders for the attack of August 22 assigned as objective to the Oxfords a road running across the Hanebeck and referred to as the Winnipeg-Kansas Cross Road… Shortly before 5 the bombardment started…The Berks came afterwards as ‘moppers up.’.. The losses of these companies in going over had not been heavy, but, as so often happens, casualties occurred directly the objective had been duly reached… Before the line reached could be consolidated or they could act to defeat the enemy’s tactics, our men found themselves the victims of sniping and machine-gun fire from Schuler Farm… More dangerous still was an old gun-pit which lay behind the left flank… This platoon, assisted by some Oxfords on the scene, captured the gun-pit and nearly seventy prisoners, but failed to garrison it… Throughout the 22nd no actual counter-attack nor organised bombardment by the enemy took place, but much sniping and machine-gun fire continued, making it almost impossible to move about. Our loss in Lewis-gunners was particularly heavy… Some of our men had to remain in shell-holes unsupported and shot at from several directions for over fifty hours… The attack, in which the Bucks had successfully co-operated on the right of our advance, earned credit for the Brigade and the Battalion. It had been, from a fighting standpoint, a military success… On the Battalion’s front Pond Farm, a small concrete stronghold, remained the sole fruit of the attack of August 22.“
The ‘Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette‘ confirmed William’s death in its 5 October 1917 edition, reporting “Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry Casualties: Killed Sgt W. H. Anstey Windsor“.
William is buried or commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 96 to 98, Belgium “son of H. E. Anstey“. For his services he was posthumously awarded the Victory and British War medals, he is also commemorated at St. John the Baptist Church, High Street, Windsor.
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