Killed by shellfire near Ypres is S/17704 Pte. Angus John Mouat Wishart of the 8th Bn Seaforth Highlanders. Born the son of a crofter in Northmavine, Shetland, tragedy entered Angus’ life at a very early age when his mother died six days after he was born from complications during labour. Consequently, he and his four older siblings were raised by their aunt Catherine, who came to live with their father to help raise his family. James was primarily a fisherman by trade, but like many other families in the area also maintained a small croft which Angus helped out on after he finished school (his three older brothers had joined their father at sea.)
Regrettably Angus’ war service papers have not survived, and so details as to when he enlisted and then went overseas are not known, however, he was probably with his unit during April 1917 when they saw action at Arras, and almost certainly at Ypres in July for the major attack at the end of the month. On the night of the 29th/30th, the battalion marched from Toronto Camp (half way between Poperinghe and Ypres at Brandhoek) to the Ecole in Ypres. The assault commenced at 3:50 am on 31 July and having partaken in the customary cup of rum, the Seaforths (in support) advanced in the dark across No Man’s Land. The battalion war diary records in the appendixes that:
“The early zero-hour and the resulting darkness made the crossing of our front system more difficult than was anticipated and Coys lost formation but did not become mixed up with each other owing to the starting distances and intervals.”
Angus’s involvement in the battle is not recorded, however, the Seaforths reached their first objective with little resistance, and having ‘mopped up’ the German front trenches, pressed on towards Frezenberg, with two companies taking part in the capture of Wilde Wood. The battalion then consolidated themselves at the Blue Line where they came under heavy shellfire, before advancing towards the Black Line during the evening. In addition to the Germans, the Seaforths faced another enemy in the form of the weather. The day itself was described as dull and misty with poor visibility, and during the night continuous heavy rain transformed the battlefield into a quagmire and stalling the whole attack. The new position was held into the following day with constant heavy shellfire and sniper activity causing about 210 battalion casualties.
Having survived the first days of the Third Battle of Ypres, Angus would have found himself back at camp in the early hours of 4 August before being ordered to march to Winnezeele later that afternoon. His period out of the line was brief, and the Highlanders soon found themselves back in the front trenches, with another attack on enemy positions near Frezenberg occurring on 22 August. Losses that day were heavy, with both attacking and supporting companies facing heavy machine-gun fire within seconds of going over the top. One company making an assault on the right of the formation found themselves ‘practically wiped out’ when they appeared to lose direction and were cut to pieces by the enemy. The war diary describes the attack as ‘unsuccessful’ and on the assumption that Angus had been involved, the odds of survival had been stacked against him with battalion losses during those twenty-four hours alone standing at 373 men (out of 602.)
Tragically his ‘luck’ ran out several days later on 28 August, when only hours before being relieved from the line, he was killed, probably by shellfire which had been noted as being ‘very heavy’ all day.
Angus was buried in Aeroplane Cemetery (Grave Ref: I. B. 28.) near Ypres where his name is recorded as ‘A M Wishart’, and also commemorated on the Eshaness War Memorial in Shetland. His family are part of tree WIS0119.