2/Lt William Frederick Wishart (1895 – 1918)
William Frederick Wishart was born at 9:20 pm on 10 June 1895 at 71 Jute Street in Aberdeen. He was the fifth of eight children of John Wishart, a local stonecutter, and his wife, Charlotte Munro. After attending elementary school, William was enrolled at the Central Higher Grade School (latterly Aberdeen Academy), which had opened in 1905.
When old enough, William began working for his father’s granite merchant business and was employed as a monumental draughtsman. When war broke out in the summer of 1914, he was living with his family at 10 Orchard Street in Aberdeen and enlisted under the Derby Scheme on 20 November 1915.
Two months later on 21 January 1916, William was mobilised for active service and assigned to the 3/4th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders – a territorial unit that subsequently became a reserve battalion. In a medical examination, William was recorded as being 5 ft 8” in height with a 35 1/2 “ chest when fully expanded, and possessing no distinctive marks. He was sent for training at Ripon and then posted overseas to the Western Front on 16 July where William was taken on strength of the 1st/4th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders – another territorial unit which at the time formed part of the 154th Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division.
It seems likely that William arrived with a draft of 19 other men shortly before midnight on 29 July while the battalion was bivouacked near Becurdel. A week before William’s arrival the Highlanders had seen fierce fighting at High Wood and suffered heavy casualties that numbered in the hundreds.
In mid-August, the battalion moved to Armentieres. The summer heat was proving problematic, with the war diary making several mentions of men ‘falling out’ during the long marches towards their destination. William’s first experience of trench life came shortly afterwards when his company was sent to relieve a battalion of New Zealanders in a subsidiary line near the town.
In early November the Highlanders were based in trenches near Beaumont-Hamel and were involved in the attack on the village on the 13th, when they successfully assaulted Y-Ravine from the St. John’s Road Trench. Battalion casualties for the battle and the days immediately afterwards numbered over a hundred, far fewer than at High Wood, but still a bitter pill to swallow in what must have seemed a relentless campaign on the Somme.
As the Allies began their third winter at the front, and temperatures began to plummet, the men of the 4th Gordons were said to have become moody and depressed with large numbers succumbing to ailments directly relating to their time in the muddy trenches. William was reported as ‘wounded’ by the Scotsman newspaper (22 January 1917) although further details are not recorded on his service papers, and it seems probable that his injuries were not serious enough to warrant being sent back to the UK.
As to when William rejoined his unit is unknown, however in all likelihood he had returned to his unit by the start of April, and is known to have participated in the Arras offensive when he received a gunshot wound in his right arm. This time William’s injuries were serious enough to be sent back to the UK, and on arrival, he was sent to recover at the 4th Northern General Hospital in Lincoln, where he remained until 28 May.
Following a period of ten-days leave, in which William returned to his family in Aberdeen, he made his way to camp at Ripon and taken on strength of the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. A month later he made an application for admission into an Officer Cadet Unit with the view to securing a temporary commission in the army. Both the minister of Greyfriars Parish in Aberdeen, and also his old high school headmaster certified William’s ‘moral character’, and the application was successful, with his commanding officer giving consent to release William from his current military obligations on 14 July.
Leaving Ripon on 9 September, William travelled to Kinmel Park in Rhyl where he joined No. 17 Officer Cadet Battalion. Tragically, during this period, William would have received word that his brother Alexander had been killed in action near Arras on 16 October.
2nd Lieutenant William F Wishart was given a commission on 29 January 1918 and sent to rejoin his old unit, however, on his return to France, he was attached to the 1st Battalion and probably joined them in the field during late-spring.
On 14 June William’s company was in position to make a night attack on the La Bassée Canal. Zero hour was 11:45 p.m., the two leading companies advancing forward under a barrage and covering a hundred yards in five minutes. News during the night was sporadic and not regarded as especially reliable, however by 4 a.m. reports came through that both flanks had reached their objectives and the centre had encountered stiff machine gun fire. The battalion war diary records that William was killed during the attack although no specifics were noted.
William is buried in Sandpits British Cemetery, Fouquereuil (Grave II. F. 4.) He is also commemorated on the Greyfriars Church and city war memorials in Aberdeen.
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