George William Wishart was born on 8 October 1896 in Grandview, Manitoba. He was the ninth of eleven children of George Robert Wishart, a local farmer, and his wife, Caroline Forbister. Tragedy struck the family in 1900 when George’s mother died in childbirth, however, ten years later his father remarried to a Minnie Anderson and three half-siblings were born. After leaving school young George (who was usually known as ‘Bill’) found work as a labourer and enlisted in Russell two days after his older brother Walter on 31 May 1916. Curiously, George, Walter and their brothers Andrew and Herbert (who enlisted in 1915), all gave incorrect birth dates on their attestation forms with George’s changing several times throughout his military career suggesting that they either didn’t know, or it was of little importance. All were ‘of age’ when they enlisted so had no reason to lie.
Like Walter and Herbert, George joined ‘A’ Company of the 226th (Overseas) Battalion which was formed of men from Dauphin, Swan River and Russell. The three Wisharts spent the next few months training at Camp Hughes before moving with the Battalion to Halifax, Nova Scotia later in the year. On 15 December the brothers left Halifax onboard the liner SS Olympic for Liverpool, where they arrived with their unit on Boxing Day. Initially based at Bramshott Camp, the 226th was absorbed by the 14th Reserve Battalion at Dibgate in Kent on 7 April 1917. At the end of May, Walter was sent to join the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) while George and Herbert were struck off strength of the 14th on 31 August, and transferred to the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish.) They had arrived in France two days earlier and were awaiting dispersal at the Canadian Base Depot when their orders came through. On 27 September the boys left the 3rd Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp and joined their unit in billets at Verdrel on 14 October. On the 31st the Battalion crossed into Flanders by train and marched from Ypres to the village of Weltje. The Canadian Corps had been called upon to take part in the ongoing offensive on the salient, which by then had rendered the area lifeless, with signs of death and destruction everywhere. Despite being in the trenches, and perhaps expecting to go into battle at any minute, it must have come as a surprise to the brothers to find themselves travelling by bus with the 16th back into France less than two weeks later. They would winter in the Arras and Vimy fronts before moving to Lens during March 1918. On the 18th George was given two-weeks leave to Paris and eventually rejoined his unit (via a transit camp) back in the Arras area on 5 May.
George went to action for the first (and last) time of the war at Amiens on 8 August 1918. In the attack, the 16th made good progress under cover of morning mist and covered over two-thousand yards with little opposition; however, when they reached a crossroads north of Demuin they were met by heavy enemy machine-gun fire. Pockets of resistance were encountered several more times throughout the day but with the assistance of tanks, were overcome. During the day’s events, George gained the unhappy distinction of being among the 100 men from the battalion who were wounded after receiving gunshot injuries to his head and right leg. He was evacuated to the 1st Canadian Field Ambulance before being taken onwards via a Casualty Clearing Station to the 9th General Hospital in Rouen.
On 10 August George returned to England and was admitted to the Berrington War Hospital near Shrewsbury. Two months later on 14 October, having made sufficient recovery, he was briefly transferred to the Princess Patricia Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Bexhill before being discharged to the 3rd Canadian Command Depot at Seaford on the 21st. After a spell with the 11th (Reserve) Battalion, George’s war finally came to a close when he returned to Canada on board the Olympic on 7 December 1918 and subsequently discharged from duty in Winnipeg on 23 January 1919.
After demobilisation George worked at various farms in the Russell area and during the Second World War, worked at the German POW Camp in Lethbridge, Alberta. He went on to work as a general labourer at the Queen’s Hotel until retiring in 1959. As a young many he played hockey, and in later years was a keen follower of the NHL – rarely missing a game. He never married and boarded with a lady named Annie Liske, who was about twenty years younger and cared for George in his final years.
George died at the Russell Hospital on Sunday, July 22nd 1979 and is buried in the Russell Memorial Gardens as William G Wishart.