James Anderson Wishart was born on 3 June 1898 in the small rural community of Mokoreta in the Southland region of New Zealand. He was the fifth of eight children of a sheep farmer from Fife named George, and his wife, Agnes Helen Murray Anderson. Just before turning ten, James’s parents separated, and he went to live with his mother and siblings in Makarewa. After leaving school, James found work as a labourer at the H Massey & Co sawmill in Colac Bay with whom he was employed on 5 April 1916 when he enlisted in Trentham. At the time he declared that he was twenty years old when in fact he was not yet eighteen.
Joining ‘D’ Coy, 15th Reinforcements, James spent the next three months training before embarking in Wellington for Devonport on 25 July. Arriving on 3 October and marching into Sling Camp on Salisbury Plain the same day, James spent the next two weeks engaged in final training before leaving for France on the 20th. However, before his departure, he may have been allowed leave to visit his brother Andrew in hospital, which wasn’t too far from camp, although his service papers make no mention of this if he did.
Now in France, James spent the remainder of the month at the base depot in Étaples and assigned to the 2nd Battalion Otago Regiment, whom he joined as part of a draft of 170 reinforcements in Armentières on 9 November. Four days later the new arrivals entered the lines east of the town from Hobb’s Farm to the River Lys in the Houplines sector. On the 15th, James, who was part of 14th Company, was killed in the trenches along with eight other ranks during a particularly heavy enemy artillery bombardment. He was only eighteen years old and subsequently buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery in Armentières.