William Robert Douglas Anstey, a member of the Doynton Ansteys, was born on 25 July 1894 (one source incorrectly states 1896) in St Paul’s Parish, Bath, baptised on 28 October 1894 in Weston, to parents Arthur Robert Anstey and Ann M. Hurley. He grew up in Weston, attended Weston Boys School, and at the time of the 1911 Census, he was living with his family at 104 High Street Upper Weston, working as a labourer at a gas works.
Right at the outset of World War One, on 6 August 1914, William signed up for active service – he was posted to the 2nd Wessex Field Company of the Royal Engineers (Transport) as a Sapper (Service Number: 773 and/or 7733954). We are able to tell his war story in great detail thanks to a plethora of newspaper articles.
The ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ on 19 September 1914 listed “Harry Anstey R. E. [his uncle] and William Anstey T” as Weston Boys School Old Boys currently serving.
The ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ on 1 May 1915 reported “Bath Engineer Wounded: News has reached his parents at 104 High Street, Upper Weston that their son, Sapper William Anstey, of the 2nd Wessex Royal Engineers, is now an inmate the Voluntary Aid Hospital, Exeter, suffering from a shrapnel wound in the left knee. Sapper Anstey is well known in Upper Weston, and is the son of Mr. Arthur Anstey. Before joining the Army in August he was an engineer in the services of Messrs Adlridge and Ranken, of the Avonbank Works, Percy Terrace, Bath. Mr and Mrs Anstey, on being made acquainted of their sons injury, proceeded today to Exeter to see him“.
The same newspaper on 15 May 1915 then reported: “Sapper W. Anstey Very Ill. Sapper William Anstey of the 2nd Wessex Royal Engineers, of Upper Weston, has had his left leg amputated and is now lying in Exeter Hospital. He is, we learn, very ill and his parents visited him on Monday. His father also saw him on Saturday”
A week later the same newspaper reported: “SAPPER ANSTEY IMPROVING: It is gratifying to hear that Sapper. Anstey. of the Wessex R.E., who is now in hospital at Exeter, where has had leg amputated, is making good progress. This reassuring news has been received by his parents at High Street, Upper Weston“
Finally on 17 July 1915 the same newspaper reported “Sapper W. Anstey, R.E. has returned home wounded and permanently disabled“.
From the above and below reports, we know that William arrived in France in early 1915, taking part in the Action at St Eloi in March 1915 and the Second Battle of Ypres commencing April 1915 – he was then wounded during the first week of the Battle of Hill 60 near Ypres, receiving the severe gunshot or shrapnel (sources differ) wound to his knee on 25 April 1915 which necessitated amputation.
William was officially discharged on 21 July 1915 “no longer physically fit for war service“. In September and October 1915 he spent some time rehabilitating at Queen’s Military Hospital and the Orthopaedic Hospital in Roehampton – he was officially issued a Silver War Badge on 2 January 1917, at which time he was at Lady Wantage Home, Welford Park Near Newbury in Berkshire
Incredibly in April 1918, after sufficient recuperation, William rejoined the war effort, joining the Royal Naval Air Service (later Royal Air Force) as a Probationary Observer Officer connected to the ship ‘St Just‘, being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant at around the same time. He served with ‘RAF Stat Eastchurch 204 TOS‘ and he was discharged (again) on 16 February 1919.
For his services, William was awarded the 1915 Star Medal, as well as the Victory and British War medals. He also had the honour of leading the Weston Peace Celebrations in July 1919 – the ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ on 2 August 1919 reporting “The day commenced with some bellringing: At seven o’clock the ringing of the church bells proclaimed the coming of the festal day, and at one o’clock another peal was rung. At 1.15 the procession assembled at the village green in readiness for the open-air service at the Recreation Ground, for it was rightly intended that the rejoicings should begin by an act of remembrance of the gallant dead. The procession was headed by one of Weston’s heroes, Lieutenant W. Anstey, R.A.F., who lost a leg in the fighting at Hill 60, but after recovering from his wound obtained a commission in another branch of the service. His cousin [Alfred Richard John Anstey, known as Fred] is numbered among the fallen parishioners. Lieutenant Anstey led the procession on horseback.”
Later in 1919 William was in the newspapers again, the ‘Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette‘ reporting “BATH OFFICER’S MISHAP: EX SOCCER CLUB SECRETARY’S WOUND. Lieut. W. R. Anstey, R.A.F., who has recently resigned the Secretaryship of Weston All Saints’ Football Club, met with an accident the other day, which has caused renewed trouble with the wounds received Ypres in 1916. Lieut. Anstey was walking near the Palace Theatre when the support of his artificial limb gave way, and he fell helplessly to the ground. The ambulance removed him to the Royal United Hospital and thence to the War Hospital Combe Park where he is now an inmate. It has been decided that another operation is necessary and Mr Anstey expects to undergo it in the course of the next few days. Whilst waiting he is able to get about with the aid of sticks and appeared at West’s Commercial Hotel on Friday evening but was just too late for the Knock Out Cup meeting at which he had hoped to be present in his capacity as a committee man. Lieut Anstey is very well known in local football circles and has worked hard for many years to further the winter games in this locality. His many friends will sympathise with him in this misfortune“.
By the 1921 Census William was back living with his family in Weston and by 1925 he was living at Lodge Hill Farm in Bledlow, Buckinghamshire. He was still living there in 1931 – we find no evidence of him ever marrying.
William died on 15 November 1951 in Wycombe Buckinghamshire.
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