1496 Private J Wishart had spent the best part of a month cooped up aboard troopships when he disembarked in the heat of a Mediterranean summer at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula. He had enlisted with the 6th Battalion Royal Scots in Edinburgh and was attached to the 1/4th Battalion (who were part of the 52nd (Lowland) Division) before leaving for overseas service. The conditions onboard must have been uncomfortable at the very least, and so it would have been with a sense of relief and trepidation that his unit finally left the confines of the ship.
John was born on 25 November 1896 at 32 Bothwell Street in Edinburgh. He was the son of John Wishart, a postman from the parish of Cults in Fife, and his wife, Margaret Heron McKenna.
At the age of four, he lived with his mother and two younger sisters at 5 Beaumont Place in the Newington District of Edinburgh. It’s unclear as to where his father was at the time, and again ten years later, when the family resided at 93 Morrison Street in Edinburgh, he was presumably living elsewhere.
John enlisted with 6th Royal Scots in November 1912 and during the early part of the war, would have been engaged with Scottish Coastal Defences. At some point a draft of men from his unit were attached to the 1/4th Battalion [Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles], who assembled at Larbert, Stirlingshire in May 1915 and entrained for Liverpool on the 22nd, where they boarded the R.M.S. Empress of Britain and set sail for the Dardanelles.
By the 28th the ship had reached Gibraltar, and three days later, Malta. John’s unit arrived at Alexandria on 3 June and given five days rest in Abukir before re-embarking for Mudros Bay on the Island of Lemnos. By mid-June, the battalion had landed at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula, and were engaged in digging communication trenches as a means to acclimatise the men to the hostile environment and ‘tone up their flabby muscles’.
The battalion received orders on the 19th to proceed to Gully Ravine where in the early hours of the 28th they assembled in front-line trenches in preparation for an assault on Turkish lines at Fir Tree Spur. As the morning wore on, and the heat intensified, John and his comrades must have been suffering considerably in their serge uniforms, and at 10:45 am, dressed in full marching kit, they eventually went over the top.
John had been appointed the role of company signaller and was killed during the battle. The circumstances of his death are unknown, though it’s possible that he was amongst those who were later described as ‘falling in bundles’ before the enemy machine guns. By the day’s end, a witness recalled that ‘a blood red sun had fallen over the peninsula where the scrub was burning fiercely. A bloody sunset closing a day of bloodiness’.
John’s body was never recovered or later identified, and he was officially recorded as being killed in action a year later on 26 August 1916. His life is commemorated on the Helles Memorial in Turkey.