Charles William Wishart was born on 28 April 1897 at 37 Great Suffolk Street in Southwark, London. He was the son of Charles Edwin Wishart, a Soap Boiler from Bermondsey, and Ellen Jane Morris. In 1901 Charles was living with his parents at 61 Berthon, Deptford and one street away at 30 Bronze Street ten years later in 1911.
By 1914 Charles was living at 6 Henrietta Street in Deptford and working as a labourer. Like thousands of other young men, he rushed to enlist shortly after the outbreak of war, making his way on the 24th August to the recruiting officer at Holly Hedge House in Blackheath – joining the 20th Battalion of the London Regiment, which had been raised that month in the same location.
Private No. 2022 C. Wishart officially remained with the battalion until the 20 July 1915, when it was noted that he had deserted the regiment with effect from that date. Charles’ reasons for leaving the London Regiment are not known; however, his battalion had started shipping out to France in the spring, and it might have been that Charles wanted to avoid going overseas.
On the 6 July 1915, while still with the London Regiment, Charles visited the recruiting office in Deptford and enlisted with the Royal Artillery (Gunner 33749). Tellingly on his attestation form, Charles left blank the question “Have you truly stated the whole, if any, of your previous service?”
He was posted to the 39th Divisional Ammunition Column, however just over two weeks later Charles had changed his mind for a second time and enlisted on the 23rd July in Bermondsey with the 2/22nd Battalion, The London Regiment as ‘Charles Dyer’. He was now technically attached to three different units at the same time, and it seems incredible to think that Charles could imagine that he would get away with such a deception.
On the 26 August 1915, Charles was struck off strength from the Royal Artillery having now been claimed by the 20th London Regiment as a deserter. It is unclear whether Charles’ re-enlistment under an alias with another battalion had also been discovered. A subsequent note on his service papers written in 1916 concerning the 20th London Regiment, recorded that Charles was “found to have improperly enlisted in the 22nd Battalion The London Regiment on the 23rd July 1915 and held above therein.” By the fact that Charles does not appear to have received any formal discipline at any time during in the next few months suggests not, and that he was able to remain undiscovered under his pseudonym.
4023 Pte. Charles Dyer was transferred to the 1/22nd London Regiment on 24 October 1915. Two days later he embarked on a troop ship for France, arriving in the field on the 28th and posted to ‘D’ Company.
On the 2 February 1916 Charles received a shell wound in his left eye and was admitted to number 5 General Hospital in Rouen three days later. On 16 February he was transferred to the hospital ship St. Denes and sent to hospital in London to recover.
Charles’ second deception was eventually discovered. On 5 March, having admitted being guilty of fraudulent enlistment and desertion, his trial was curtailed and ‘instead of being tried by a court-martial he shall suffer the same forfeitures and deductions from pay (if any) as if he had been convicted by a district court-martial of the said offence’.
On 13 April, ‘B.B. Cubitt’, Officer in Charge of the Territorial Force Records wrote:
With reference to your letter of the 5th inst., No.122367. I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that as regards the service of No. 4023 Private C.W. Wishart, in 2/20th Battalion The London Regiment, his record of service should be closed as “Found to have improperly enlisted in the 22nd Battalion London Regiment on 23rd July 1915, and held to serve therein.
As regards his service in the 22nd Battn. London Regiment, the offence for which he is liable to trial was false answer on attestation, and even if he had been convicted of this offence it would not have involved any forfeiture of prior service. The order on Army Form A.46 by General Officer Commanding 4th Corps ordering such forfeiture was therefore ultra vires. The conduct sheet in 22nd London Regt. Should, however, show the offence and how it is disposed of.
The enclosures in your letter under reply, together with the attestation papers are returned herewith.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
(signed) B.B. Cubitt.
On the 10 May 1916 Charles was discharged, no longer being physically fit for service. Just over five months later he was awarded the Silver War Badge (under the name C. Dyer of 6 Henrietta Street, Greenwich) and his war was at an end.
On 5 August 1917, Charles married his cousin, Florence Mary Wishart, at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Southwark. He had been living at 79 Southwark Park Road in Bermondsey at the time, and working as a labourer. Less than a year later son named Charles Edwin Wishart was born.
Charles died from pulmonary tuberculosis at 30 Aldridge Street on 29 July 1922.