201173 Pte. John Wishart (1894 – 1917)

John Wishart was born at 6:15 in the morning of 20 April 1894 at 7 Castle Court in Dundee. He was the eldest of two children of John Wishart, a local butcher, and his wife, Isabella Lennox. In 1901 the family were living at 94 Scouringburn in the parish of Liff & Benvie and at 27 Overgate, Dundee ten years later. After John left school, he worked as a message boy for his father’s butchers shop. Also living on Overgate during this period was a local jute spinner named Agnes Cameron Clark. John and Agnes met and were married on 27 November 1914 in St. Mary Magdalene Church in Dundee. At the time John had been working as a lorry driver and living at 17 Blackness Road but moved in with Agnes at 93 Overgate after the wedding.

John probably enlisted a couple of months later and joined one of the Territorial Battalions of the Black Watch, eventually being sent to France on 10 December 1915. Regrettably John’s service papers have not survived, so it is unknown exactly which battalion he was first sent to join; however, the two likely candidates are the 1/4th (City of Dundee) Battalion or the 1/5th (Angus & Dundee) Battalion. ‘Soldiers Who Died in the Great War’ records that John served with the 4/5th Black Watch – a unit formed on 15 March 1916 through an amalgamation of the two battalions. At the start of the year the two units had formed part of the 51st (Highland) Division, and following the union, were transferred to the 39th Division, who had arrived in France short of a brigade.

During 1916 John likely took part in the battles of Poziéres Ridge (September) and Ancre Heights (October.) At the end of November, he was based on the Ypres Salient where his battalion would spend much of the next thirteen months. Between January and July 1917, John would have been engaged in trench warfare, often in very challenging conditions.

Towards the end of July, a campaign that would become known as the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) was at an advanced stage of planning, the primary objective of which was to drive the Germans from the high ground overlooking the town and widen the salient. The offensive began at 3:50 am on 31 July. John’s unit formed the left of the 118th Brigade and was tasked with taking a well-fortified enemy position behind a small river known as the Steenbeek. The battalion started their advance about ten o’clock and made it across to their objective with only a few casualties. On the right the Cheshire Regiment had taken St. Julien, however the centre, which was a battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment, had been heavily hit to the extent that they had been almost obliterated – exposing the left flank of the Cheshires, and right flank of the Highlanders. The result of this was that the Black Watch was forced to pull back to the river, and in doing so were severely hit by both enemy artillery and machine-gun fire.

It seems probable that John was killed during this period. His body was never recovered, or later identified, and he is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 37.) He is also recorded in the Dundee Roll of Honour.

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