University of British Columbia, 1941, BSc, Agriculture
University of British Columbia, 1943, MSc, Agriculture
I was born in Victoria , BC , in 1917 and attended Oaklands Public School for my first two years, then Margaret Jenkins Elementary School , Victoria High School and Victoria College before registering in the Faculty of Agriculture at UBC, majoring in Horticulture. But I move too quickly!
My summers were spent at our family cottage at Mill Bay – right on the water. Naturally we spent a lot of time on the beach, clamming, swimming. I built my first sailboat with a design out of Popular Mechanics. My father took it to Mill Bay on the top of his car but my younger brother David and I sailed it home, across Saanich Inlet stopping at our grandmother’s overnight in Sidney . In those days no one wore life jackets – we didn’t even have any, after all, we were good swimmers! The next day was hot and calm so we rowed the rest of the way to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club of which, I believe, David was a junior member. Summer jobs when I was at Victoria College were spent picking logan berries, then with a threshing gang on Saanich Peninsula.
For the next two summers I was fortunate to sign on to the hydrographic survey ship, the William J Stewart as an AB Seaman (sounder). This was excellent because everything was found except for clothing and I came ashore with four uncashed cheques. I then moved to the University of BC in Vancouver , and, the year I received my BSA, I was offered a summer student position at the Dominion Experimental Farm, Agassiz , BC , as a horticulturist. I received an MSA in 1943.
Although excluded from the military draft during the war because I was a graduate in agriculture, I joined the army in the fall of 1940, for both my younger brothers were in the service. I graduated from Gordon Head as a “one pip wonder” (2nd lieutenant) in the spring of 1941, a week before receiving my Bachelor degree from UBC. Since I was interested in food, I joined the Army Service Corps but, instead of being involved with food, they put me in transport! Instead of seeing active service I seemed to spend my first year as a qualified junior officer conducting drafts from Vancouver to Halifax and boarding them onto a troop ship. “You may go aboard yourself, Anstey, if there is room.” I was told. But there never was, since each trainload had more men than the ship could hold.
Finally the question was asked “Who wants to go overseas?” Many of us jumped at the chance since we had joined up to “kill the enemy” and this could not be done from Canada . “Right” was the answer, “if you will transfer to infantry and go on loan to the British Army for all purposes but pay and discharge as a CANLOAN officer we will have you there in two weeks” was the answer. I had already qualified as an infantry officer. We shipped to England aboard the SS Empress of Scotland, landing in Liverpool on 11 May 1944 . I volunteered to join the airborne troops and so was off by train to the Salisbury Plains to join the 2nd Bn Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (The Oxs and Bucks) of the 6th Airborne Division.
Shortly after Hitler launched the Ardennes attack, on Christmas Eve, 1944, we were aboard a troop carrier bound for Belgium as reserve to back up the Ardennes defenses. Following the Ardennes show we returned to England to prepare ourselves for a flight over the Rhine .
We flew over the Rhine on March 24 with the US 2nd Airborne Division on our right flank. This was a very successful exercise since, unlike previous airborne attacks, we landed about three hours after the ground troops started their crossing of the river. This meant that we landed behind the enemy lines putting them in the squeeze of a pincher. All went well and we kept moving east and north until we reached the Baltic and met up with the Russian Army at Lake Schwerin about a week before VE Day.
Upon my return to Canada , Wynne (whom I had married in Brockville ) and I reported to the Agassiz Experimental Farm (now Research Station). Within the year I applied for education leave under Veterans Affairs and registered with the Horticulture Department of the University of Minnesota . We were in St Paul for the fall semester and, much to the dismay of the University staff, because we had only been there for less than two years, I was awarded my PhD in June, 1949, and was no longer available as “cheap labour” to the faculty.
We enjoyed our life in Agassiz with lots of horticultural research throughout the lower Fraser Valley . In the small village of Agassiz , in addition to the job we played bridge, tennis, took part in Boy Scouts as Scoutmaster and socialized with several other UBC graduates on staff – Mills Clarke, Bruce Dickson, Doug Taylor and Jack Freemen. Then the superintendent of the Summerland Experimental Station, Dick Palmer, died suddenly in the spring of 1952. I was appointed as its new superintendent, as I recall, without even applying! From Summerland I exchanged jobs with the superintendent at Kentville , NS , for nearly a year during which the various research services in Canada Agriculture were amalgamated into the Research Branch. Again, without applying, I was appointed director of the Research Station, Lethbridge , AB , the largest and most complex station in the system. This was an interesting and challenging position since it contained scientists from all the disciplines represented in the department with the exception of veterinary medicine. But there was also a vet-med research station in Lethbridge with which we co-operated closely. Indeed the superintendent of that station, Dr Bob Avery, became a good friend and my crew at the Lethbridge Sailing Club.
While in Lethbridge I applied for and received a Nuffield Foundation Fellowship for study in England . I chose as my subject the ways in which British agricultural research stations were managed and directed. With the family, we made our headquarters at the Rothamsted Research Station in Harpenden, just north of London . My visits to other agricultural research stations were interesting since each director with whom I visited said that I had been the first person to discuss his function with him – all other visitors wanted to discuss the research of the station!
Upon my return to Canada I was appointed Assistant Director General (Western) with my office in Ottawa but my responsibility extended from Winnipeg to Victoria . This, again, was an interesting position, for it involved a good deal of travel in western Canada . But it also meant that I was absent from home a good deal of the time leaving Wynne with the responsibility of the family. Five years before retirement, in 1982, the position of co-ordinator of international relations in research became available, which I was able to assume. This required being the contact in the Research Branch with CIDA and finding suitable people within the Branch to take responsibility for managing foreign agricultural projects for CIDA. When I finally retired I joined the Hon Eugene Whelan when he formed his agricultural consulting firm Agrodev. It was interesting working with Whelan – but we really didn’t make any money although I think we were able to cover our expenses! In recognition of my services to agriculture, I was honoured with the award of a Fellowship from the Agricultural Institute of Canada.
In full retirement I became involved with The Friends of the Central Experimental Farm – and still am. My wife, Wynne, passed away in Ottawa in 1998. After a couple of years living by myself I moved to a retirement community. I rented a two-bedroom cottage (half of a duplex). In the other half was a widow, Dorothy Moore. We became good friends, went for walks together, travelled together and, in 2001 were married in the home of her daughter in Grafton , ON . So here, now, is the beginning of my new and very happy life!