James Wilkie Wishart was born on 4 January 1883 at 90 Netherton Broad Street in Dunfermline, Fife. He was the fourth child of David Wishart, a dairyman from Leven, and his wife, Margaret Cowper.
When James left school, he found work as a cloth lapper and by 1915 was living in a stone terraced cottage at 17 Rose Crescent in Dunfermline. On 15 November 1915, he visited the recruiting office in Dunfermline and enlisted in the army. Having been assessed fit for service James was sent to the Army Reserve until 2 October 1916 when he was mobilised for service and posted to No.3 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery in Plymouth. Later that month, on the 26th, James joined No. 49 Coy, RGA, who were based at Bere Island in Ireland, and engaged in South Irish Coastal Defences at that time.
The following spring, on 15 March, James was sent to signallers school on Spike Island, a strategic base in Cork harbour. He passed his signallers and telephonist exams and was posted to ‘A’ Siege Depot in Catterick on 25 May 1917 and subsequently assigned to 397 Siege Battery, RGA one month later.
James left for France from Southampton on 27 July and along with 57 other men joined 113 Siege Battery, who were based east of Arras on the south bank of the River Scarpe opposite Fampoux. The new draft arrived on 6 August with James taking on the role of battery signaller, which meant he would have been tasked with communicating (probably by telephone) between the front lines and his unit.
By early-October the left section of the battery had relocated east of Ypres at Witte Poort Farm, which was between the Menin Road and Roulers railway, and eventually moved to a position west of Westhoek on the 11th. During this period on 9 October, the battery fired 291 rounds in support of an attack made by the 1st Anzac Corps in an action that would collectively be known as the Battle of Poelcappelle. On 13 October the right section of the battery arrived from Arras, and a new position to the northwest of Westhoek was finalised between the 15th and 18th. The battery war diary records that grid reference J1c 75.60 was beside a light railway, which was ‘north and south between Little Wood and the Kit Kat Ridge.’ The first gun was brought into action at the new position on the 21st with the dispersal of the six guns at the time being:
One gun in action in the new position of J1c 75.60
One undamaged gun awaiting removal from Westhoek to the new position
One damaged gun awaiting removal from Westhoek to workshops.
Two new guns en route to battery by light railway.
One gun in workshops.
The battery war diary makes no mention of casualties during its daily entries; however, a summary of events for November reads as follows:
Hostile Shelling – Casualties
Hostile counter-battery work was very active throughout the month. From the 6th to the 19th the battery position was shelled daily with 4.2 and 5.9 H.E. (high explosives) – usually either a 20 minutes concentration on intermittent bursts stretched over several hours. On other days the battery suffered only from random area strafes. On several occasions, the battery was shelled at night with 4.2 gas shell. The heaviest shelling occurred between 1 pm and 2 pm on the 10th with 5.9 HE, between 4.30 pm and 5.15 pm on the 13th with 4.2 and 8 HE, and between noon and 2 pm on the 19th by a concentration of 5.9 batteries.
Casualties for the month were: Killed 1 Died of Wounds 3 Wounded 8 Gassed 2
James was likely one of the three who are listed as dying of wounds, possibly received towards the end of November. He died at the 101st Field Ambulance on 1 December 1917 and buried in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery (Grave III. A. 3.)
His personal effects as returned to his family were as follows: disc, letter, two pipes, religious book, pocket knife, wrist watch & strap, cap badge, tobacco pouch, signallers badge, certificate (signallers) pair of numerals, purse and three 1/2d stamps.