Alexander Wishart was born during 1886 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – the eldest of nine children of David Alexander Wishart and his wife Elizabeth Renforth. The family lived in the Byker area of the city where Alexander’s father worked as a caulker and then latterly a boilermaker.
Alexander did not follow in his father’s footsteps and trained as a hairdresser after he finished school. On 31 March 1910, he married Barbara Ann Horsley, and they became a family six months later when their first daughter Elizabeth was born (there would be two more daughters and six sons born in the years up to 1930.)
By 1912 Alexander was running his own hairdressing business, and after war broke out in 1914, he enlisted in Newcastle on 31 May 1915 with the 4th Tyneside Irish – a pals battalion formed in earlier in the year that was primarily made up of men of Irish extraction. Officially the unit was known as the 27th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and in June became part of the 103rd Brigade, 34th Division and moved from Woolsington Park, outside of Newcastle, to Salisbury Plain.
At the start of 1916, the 34th Division was mobilised for overseas service. Alexander’s unit embarked for France on the 11th January and by early summer were based in the Somme region of France. The battalion took part in the first day of the Battle of the Somme when the 103rd Brigade advanced on the enemy-held villages of La Boisselle and Contalmaison. The 34th Division has been described as ‘ill-fated’ having sustained the greatest number of casualties on the opening day of the assault (6350 in total.) Of that, the 4th Tyneside suffered 539 casualties, with Alexander among them having received gunshot wounds in his right knee and arm. He was transferred to the 11th General Hospital at Camiers on 5 July before being sent to the 31st Infantry Base Depot at Etaples on 21 August – eventually rejoining his battalion in the field on 8 September.
Exactly two months later he was subject to twenty-eight days Field Punishment No.1 for an unspecified offence. This particular punishment would involve the offender being attached to a fixed object for up to two hours a day, and for a period of up to three months.
On 23 April 1917, Alexander was wounded in action for the second time, probably during the Second Battle of the Scarpe, which was a phase of the Arras Offensive. On this occasion, he suffered a gunshot wound in the toes and was taken to the 103rd Field Ambulance before being transferred to No.7 Canadian General Hospital at Etaples. The injury was relatively minor, and he was able to rejoin his comrades three months later before being awarded a week’s leave back to the UK in early September.
October 1917 was to prove a tough month for Alexander. On the 7th his second daughter Phyllis died from broncho-pneumonia, and on the 21st he was gassed in the field and eventually sent back to England from the No.9 General Hospital at Rouen.
Alexander’s service overseas was now at an end, and in the summer of 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Engineers and posted to the 3rd anti-aircraft unit of the London Electrical Engineers.
After the war, he continued working as a hairdresser until his death in Newcastle on 29 August 1957.