The Wishart Surname In The Great War
In 2010 amateur family historian Scott Wishart began an eight-year project to research and record biographical details of men and women bearing his surname who served in uniform during the First World War. This site is a tribute to all those Wisharts who served both overseas and on the home front.
Currently, Scott has identified over 540 Wisharts from the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and United States who served in uniform overseas and on the home front between 1914 and 1919. Some were pre-war reservists and found themselves quickly mobilised for active service during the summer of 1914, whilst others were army regulars stationed overseas in countries such as India, and subsequently drafted back to Europe and posted to the Western Front.
A great many Wisharts answered Kitchener’s call for volunteers and signed up following the outbreak of war. Although a few would see action in France by the year’s end, the majority of the ‘new army’ Wisharts didn’t cross the English Channel until 1915, with a number sailing further afield to the Dardanelles, Balkans, Mesopotamia, Egypt and East Africa.
Wisharts were involved in a variety of roles ranging from clerical workers, labourers, and nurses to front line infantry rank and officer duties. Being a predominantly Scottish surname, many were attached to Scottish regiments, however, there were also strong contingents from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – with several men also coming from South Africa and Tasmania. The number of American Wisharts who served overseas isn’t currently known. Several hundred men filled in draft registration cards although not all would have seen service. Where identified, I have listed those who were known to have served with the American Expeditionary Force.
Wisharts were not only confined to the land. A number served with the Royal Navy and several eventually joined the Royal Flying Corps from the army (latterly the RAF). Of those that saw front line action, a number distinguished themselves in the field and were subsequently merited for their actions, some even had their heroic deeds reported widely in the press yet others weren’t so fortunate. One man, despite proving himself in the trenches and earning an unblemished service record, found himself court-martialled and executed at dawn for desertion.
By and large, the larger majority of individuals came from very humble, and often impoverished backgrounds, and it seems very likely that engaging in service overseas would have been the first time they’d have left the immediate area in which they lived. Of all the men and women who were sent to foreign countries, eighty-two did not return.
The website was conceived and maintained by Scott Wishart, whose interest in World War One started in 1988 when he saw a production of R. C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End at the Whitehall Theatre in London, and has since become fascinated by the lives of ordinary people who were plucked from everyday life and thrust into the extremes of human experience, often with courage and tenacity that they might never have realised had they stayed at home. This site seeks to recognise and honour those who, often at the expense of their own lives, have fought for their beliefs and of course their friends, family, and countrymen.
The project is ongoing and has been made possible with the assistance of the late Lt. Col Jack Wishart and all the Wisharts from around the world who have submitted their own family stories and artifacts.
To date detailed biographies have been written for over two-hundred individuals, and will be published in a trilogy of books. The first will cover Wisharts (from all countries) who were killed in action or subsequently died of wounds. The second will document the Wisharts from the United Kingdom who survived the war, whilst the third will be focused on those who also survived, but were residents of the Commonwealth and USA.