418937 Pte David Wishart (1892 – 1918)

Tree: WIS0028

David Wishart was born at 73 Prinlaws in Leslie, Fife on 25 September 1893. He was the eldest of seven children of John Wishart, a general labourer, and his wife, Elizabeth Hain. By 1901 the family had moved to Leith where they lived at 7 Bowling Green Street and David’s father found work as a dock labourer. When old enough young David worked on the railways, and by 1914 had gained the position of a locomotive fireman.

Perhaps feeling that he might have better opportunities in life overseas, David made the decision to emigrate to Canada in 1914 and left from Glasgow on board the Corsican on 16 May. The ship docked in Quebec fifteen days later and David made his way to Montreal where he resumed his career on the railways. Unfortunately, it was not a good time to join the Canadian Railways with 50,000 losing their jobs between 1914 and 1915 due to the country’s railway debt. It’s not clear how David fared in such a climate so his reasons for enlisting whether they be for patriotic or economic reasons are unknown. Either way, on 21 May 1915 he visited the recruiting office in Montreal and joined the 42nd Battalion (Quebec Regiment), CEF.

The battalion sailed for England from Montreal on board the SS Hesperian on 10 June and arrived in Plymouth nine days later. David spent the next four months training near Folkestone before proceeding to France on 9 October and perhaps a month or so after arrival he received the news that his younger brother John had been killed in France on the 22nd.

In December the battalion was tasked with holding the defences near Ypres at Kemmel, where David was attached for duty at the Control Post on 6 February 1916. He appears to have remained based there until 25 April 1917 when he was sent to become an instructor at the 3rd Canadian Division School, and would eventually rejoin his unit on 5 July 1918 while they were billeted at Bellacourt.

On Sunday, 14 July the battalion relieved the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles in the front lines just southeast of Arras in the Mercatel Sector. David’s first tour back in the trenches lasted until 25 July and at the start of August, he found himself in an area southeast of Arras. On the night of 6th, the battalion moved to Gentelles Wood which is southeast of Amiens and prepared for a large offensive planned in the area two days later.

At 4:20 am on the 8th the battalion left their assembly positions and moved towards the River Luce, which was crossed at 6:00 am. It was a very misty morning and little resistance was met at first with the men of the 42nd successfully crossing the river without incident, however, shortly afterwards they came under heavy shell fire but battled through to the next assembly point, sustaining several casualties in the process. After a short period of rest, they pushed on to the valley in Hamon Wood and prepared themselves in their battle positions. At 8:20 am they advanced from the Green Line and were immediately checked by heavy machine-gun fire coming from the direction of Hill 102. The company on the battalion right managed to move ahead, while those in the centre and left were held up by enemy Howitzers. These were soon-outflanked by men from the battalion and put out of action with their crews either killed or taken prisoner. The company on the right flank were next to come under artillery fire, and likewise, managed to rush the enemy guns and silence them. The attack on Hill 102 began in earnest and through grit and determination this was taken and the final objective reached at 10:20 am. The battalion then consolidated their position and tried to shore up their flanks, which had become exposed and at 9:00 pm they moved into Claude Wood, where they bivouacked for the night. David survived his first major battle and two days later was based with his unit in the village of Folies.

On Sunday 11 August the battalion moved southeast to the Parvillers Sector in preparation for a further attack and took over the trenches, which happened to be the old British line from before the German Spring Offensive, at 4:25 am on the 12th. No-mans Land in this area varied from 150 – 300 yards wide and was heavily defended on both sides by thick barbed wire entanglements. The battle began at 3:30 pm with roughly ten-hours of furious hand-to-hand combat subsequently taking place. The Battalion War Diary gives an account of the fighting:

At 3.30 pm. (zero hour) the enemy’s trenches were entered simultaneously by all parties. Although taken by surprise the enemy fought stubbornly but the garrison consisting chiefly of Machine Gunners was unable to check the combination of our Lewis Gunners, Bombers, Rifle Grenadiers and Bayonet men. Lt. J.D.LeMoine was wounded by a Machine Gun bullet early in the engagement and Pte. Ritchie speedily put the gun and crew out of action by a direct hit with a Mills Grenade. In the support trench Lt. Andrews with No.4 platoon was advancing with great dash and the work of his first bayonet man Pte. Trowse was outstanding. After hard fighting throughout the whole length of the trenches, the ROUVROY-PARVILLERS Road was reached about 5.30 pm. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. Many dead were left in the trenches and numerous Machine Guns were captured. One Alsation prisoner assisted the right company by going along the enemy trench to the objective and during consolidation helped to repair and put into action a hostile Machine Gun.

Almost immediately the enemy began to counter-attack advancing on two sides and endeavouring to cut off our advanced platoons by working his way in from the rear. His Machine Gun fire was extremely heavy and bombs were freely used. When the enemy were observed advancing L/Cpl. Howes and Pte. Legallais on their own initiative took their Lewis Gun sections across the road and advanced some 50 yards to meet the enemy and opened fire. Both guns were kept in action and inflicted heavy casualties until these two O.R. were killed. The crews then returned to the north of the road, bringing their guns with them.

After the signal had been sent up to indicate that the objective was reached C Company under Lieut. Hoyles and B Company under Lieut. Scott proceeded to cross no man’s land to occupy the enemy’s old front line. The Machine Gun fire was very heavy and B Company suffered about 30 casualties. On arrival in the old German front line Nos, 10 and 11 platoons proceeded up the communication trench and attacked the enemy’s support lines. By this time the enemy had brought into action a Light Trench Mortar that was enfilading this communication trench and we suffered casualties. At the same time the enemy who had retired from his positions on the west of the road commenced to fight his way back and succeeded in bringing up some light Machine Guns which enfiladed the trench. By a strong bombing attack supported Lewis Gun fire he was again forced to withdraw. A Company’s flank was again being threatened by a second counter-attack from the enemy and Nos. 9 and 12 platoons under Lt. Craig and Marand were sent forward to reinforce this part of the line. Lt. Hoyles was killed on making a daring reconnaissance into the enemy’s reserve lines.

About 8 o’clock Lt. MacLachlan with a party of about 2 platoons worked his way up the communication trench and succeeded in clearing out the German Support Trench which was still occupied by the enemy, and got in touch with A on the right and B on the left, thus establishing a continuous line along the old German support trench.

About midnight two Companies of the 49th Battalion were sent up as reinforcements.

While A Company was clearing out the front support trenches D Company commenced to bomb down the trenches running from L.18.a.90.98 to L.17.b.52.55 No. 13 platoon under Lt. A.Scott supported by No.14 and 15 under Lt. Morris started from L.18.a.90.90 and No.16 platoon under Capt. Grafftey from L.17.b.52.55 No.13 platoon lost its direction and fought his way down Pelican Alley to approximately G.14.a.20.25. The O.C. 44th. Bn. who was watching the operations seeing that direction had been lost detailed Major D.B.Martyn, M.C. 2 i/c 44th. Canadian Battalion to take as many men as necessary and assist the 42nd Battalion to gain their direction. Major Martyn got in touch with Lt. Scott and the attack recommenced in the direction of PARVILLERS.

In the attack on Pelican Alley Lt. Scott was wounded and shortly afterwards when the attack went towards PARVILLERS Lt. Morris was wounded. Lt. Scott was hit four times in rushing a block where he killed one of the blocking party. As the party was without an officer to direct them Major Martyn took charge and continued the attack with one platoon of the 44th. Battalion under Lieut. Collie to follow up in support. Strong resistance was encountered and all enemy posts and blocks fought with determination and in many cases, the attack was pressed home with the bayonet. The fight proceeded with such dash that few Germans succeeded in getting away and we captured two heavy and 5 light Machine Guns and recaptured one hotchkiss gun which the enemy had put into action. Owing to no trench existing between L.10.c.40.80 and L.18.c.15.05 he went around via trench at L.17.d.90.60 and then took trench which led him inside the CHAVATTE salient. While at G.19.c.50.50 he withstood enemy counter attacks of approximately 150 from the direction of SCHWETZ Wood – our Lewis Gunners doing excellent work. After holding a position inside the CHAVATTE salient for one hour Capt. Allan who had been sent for arrived and informed Major Martyn he had taken the wrong trench and Major Martyn then withdrew and occupied the trenches running from L.17.d.10.05 to L.17.d.80.95 along C.T. to L.18.a.55.?0 and connected up with the 44th Battalion on the left. No.16 platoon proceeded along the trench to L.23.a.60.70 and owing to enemy resistance were unable to proceed. A block was put in the trench and D Company formed a connection with A Company. On the morning of August 13th, we cleared the trench running fromL.23.a.90.90 L.23.a.60.75 to L.23.L.17.a.30.0? During this operation Lieut. Earnshaw was killed. That evening the 49th Battalion cleared the trench running from L.23.a.60.75 to BLUCHER Wood. On the morning of the 14th, one platoon of A Company and three platoons of C Company under Lieut. MacLachlan relieved the 49th Battalion in this trench. On the morning of the 15th we occupied the line running from L.23.c.95.85 to L.24.a.?5.99 to L.17.d.?0.?? to L.18.c. 45.85 to the railway at L.12.a.65.35. While a redistribution of the garrison was taking place a hostile bombing party attempted to occupy the trench junction at L.23.c.95.85 Lt. MacLachlan with 6 O.Rs. of the 49th Battalion supported by Lt. Crawford and 15 O.Rs. of the 42nd Battalion succeeded in driving the enemy off. No further enemy counter-attacks were attempted.

Tragically David was among the ranks who were killed in action. His body was either not recovered, or later identified and he is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.

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