43760 L/Cpl. William Wishart (1890 – 1917)

Tree: WIS0009
William Wishart (1890 – 1917)

William Wishart was born on 30 January 1890 at 84 Pleasance in Edinburgh, Midlothian.  He was the eldest of five children of Charles Wishart, a printer machine-man from Edinburgh, and his wife, Jessie McKay.

In 1907 William enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps with whom he served until 1909. Unfortunately, no further information about his time with the Corps exists; however it seems probable that he was based in the UK during this period.

On 9 April 1910, William married Christine Vass in Glasgow.  At the time he had been living with his parents at 58 Napiershall Street in Glasgow, and following the marriage, Christine (sometimes referred to as ‘Chrissie’) also moved into the family home with two sons named Charles and David being born of the marriage in 1911 and 1914 respectively. William worked behind the bar in a local pub, and by the end of 1915, the family had moved to 35 Simpson Street.

William re-enlisted on 1 December 1915 in Glasgow and joined the 3/5th Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) – a depot training unit formed in November 1914 and stationed in Yorkshire. On 8 April 1916, the 3/5th became the 5th (Reserve) Battalion and garrisoned at Catterick.

During the spring William was transferred to the 4th (Reserve) Royal Scots and left Southampton for Le Havre on 3rd June. He disembarked the next day and proceeded to No. 5 Infantry Base Depot in Rouen. A month later he was one of 298 men sent to join the 16th Royal Scots in the trenches at Hennecourt Wood on the Somme.

At the end of the month, the 16th found themselves in the front line to the left of High Wood, and its possible William saw his first action of the war during the early hours of 4th August when the battalion unsuccessfully attacked the German front lines. By the end of the month the battalion had moved to the Armentières sector, and in early September they held a relatively quiet part of the line at La Rolanderie.

The remainder of 1916 was spent rotating between the front line trenches and billets where the men were assigned to working parties. Several raids and patrols occurred, however, evidence that William was involved with any of these cannot be substantiated.

On 19 January 1917 while billeted at St. Hilaire Dieval, William was promoted to the rank of lance corporal (unpaid), and in early February he was based at Meteren. The 16th then moved to the Arras area where they took part in the attack that began on 9 April. William was almost certainly involved and had become a ‘paid’ lance corporal the same day. During the battle, the battalion suffered 318 casualties, and by the 28th, when William was in action again in the area of Roeux, the combined strength of both the 15th and 16th battalions numbered only 400 men.

The attack commenced at 4:25 am when all companies of the 16th left the trenches and moved forward towards the enemy lines. They immediately met machine gun and rifle fire coming from the Roeux Agricultural Chemical Works, Mount Pleasant Wood and the village of Roeux itself. Against the odds, the battalion eventually reached the enemy lines with fierce hand-to-hand combat occurring at the chemical works, while others established themselves in shell holes and about the works buildings. Another group of Royal Scots reached the village where they also faced hand-to-hand fighting while the platoons who had entered the wood were compelled to withdraw for fear of being cut-off. Those in Roeux were not so fortunate and soon found themselves separated from the rest of the battalion when the Germans counter-attacked through the wood towards the allied lines. During the attack, the 16th suffered just over 50% casualties with 170 men (including William) recorded as ‘missing’. It seems likely that he was amongst the Royal Scots who remained behind in the village and probably wounded shortly before being taken prisoner. The German Red Cross eventually supplied a list dated 18 July that William had died on 2 May at Kriegs Laz Gef Lag, St. Clotilde, Douai.

In early November William’s possessions were sent back to his wife at 8 Mathieson Road, Glasgow, and on 31 December, she was awarded a war widows pension of 22/11 a week for herself and two sons.

William was awarded the British War and Victory medals and buried in Joint Grave H.14. at Douai Communal Cemetery.

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