George Rodger Wishart was born southeast of Leuchars in the tiny hamlet of Milton on 3 April 1893. He was the fifth of eleven children of Robert Wishart, a papermill boilerman from Kingsbarns, and his wife, Catherine Mackie. By 1901 Robert had been promoted to mill foreman and the family subsequently moved into an attractive stone-terraced cottage on Innerbridge Street in Guardbridge. After leaving school young George found work as a gardener and at the age of 17 he left Scotland on board the SS Columbia with his older siblings Christina and Robert. The three Wisharts arrived At Ellis Island, New York on 11 September 1910 indicating that they were looking to settle in Waterville, Maine, however, the following year George left for Canada where he found work as a driver on the Toronto tramway.
In early September 1914, George made his way to Valcartier in Quebec, which was the main training base for the First Canadian Contingent, and enlisted in the 15th Infantry Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada) on the 22nd. Four days later the battalion embarked for England and arrived in Plymouth on board the Megantic in early October. George would have wintered with his unit on Salisbury Plain where he would have taken part in intensive training prior to departure for France.
On 12 February 1915 the Highlanders embarked in Bristol onboard the S.S. Mount Temple and left for St. Nazaire – arriving three days later. George’s first experience of life in the trenches came at the end of the month when his unit took over a section of the line near Armentières. In April the Battalion took part in the Second Battle of Ypres during which George was taken prisoner at St. Julien on the 24th. He was captured during an enemy chlorine attack and one of 700 men killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner. After initially being reported as ‘missing’, George’s status was updated on 8 July when he was officially listed as having been ‘taken prisoner and suffering from gas poisoning’.
George spent the remainder of the war incarcerated at one of the German POW Camps in Münster and was released after the Armistice. He eventually arrived back in England on 1 December 1918 and made his way to Camp Ripon, although, like thousands of returning soldiers, he fell ill with influenza and found himself briefly admitted to No.9 Canadian General Hospital in Kinmel Park on 1 March 1919. Three days after being discharged on the 11th, George sailed for Canada from Liverpool on the transport ship Royal George – arriving in Halifax on 25 March. He was subsequently demobilised from the 2nd District Depot in Toronto on the 27th.
After the war, George took up residence in Hamilton, Ontario and on 23 February 1920, the day she disembarked in Halifax, he married Helen Pratt, who was presumably his childhood sweetheart from home. Three children were subsequently born of the marriage, and the family lived in Hamilton at 21 Campbell Avenue. George worked as a draughtsman and then a design engineer for Canadian Westinghouse until retirement in 1962. During the Second World War George’s only son Robert was shot down and killed over Duisburg, Germany while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
George died in Hamilton on 10 July 1970.