4438A Spr. Clarence Bede Wishart (1893 – 1957)
On 28 February 1892 in Angaston, South Australia, a local orchardist named Frank Clarence Wishart married the daughter of a doctor from Kapunda named Elizabeth Caldbach Carmichael. The following year on 13 August a son named Clarence Bede was born nearby in Riverton however, attracted by the fruit growing potential in Western Australia; Frank took his family to live in Wooroloo, about five years later.
In 1909, when Clarence was seventeen, he began working for the Western Australia Government Railway as a junior porter at Chidlow Station. However, within two months he was fired for ‘work unsatisfactory’ and spent two years helping out with his father’s business before re-joining the railway company in October 1912. On this occasion, he applied for a cleaner’s job, which was the first step on a career path to becoming an engine fireman.
Before the war, Clarence was based at Northam and was granted leave to serve with the A.I.F. on 19 November 1915. Two days earlier he had enlisted with the Australian Army in Perth and was subsequently sent to the training camp at Blackboy Hill where he received instruction in signalling and became part of the 14th Reinforcements, 16th Infantry Battalion on 3 January 1916. In this period Clarence married the daughter of a coachman from England named Mary Dunning in Wooroloo on 23 December.
On 12 February the reinforcements embarked at Freemantle on H.M.A.T. Miltiades and sailed for Egypt, where they disembarked in Suez on 11 March. Fifteen days later as part of a draft of 70 men, Clarence marched from Zeitoun to Serapeum where he was taken on strength of the 13th Field Company, Engineers and given the rank of sapper. At 01:15 hours on 6 June the 13th arrived at Alexandria and Clarence left for the Western Front on the HMT Oriana at 3 am. The voyage took a week, after which the company travelled by train from Marseilles to Northern France, and arrived in Ballieul ten days after they left Egypt.
Clarence spent much of the summer based on the Somme and was working on a communication trench near the village of Pozières when he received shrapnel wounds to his knees on 14 August. He was evacuated to No.44 Casualty Clearing Station at Puchevillers before being taken to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples. A week after being injured he found himself embarking in Calais for England on board the hospital ship ‘Brighton’. On arrival, the sapper was taken by train to Manchester and admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital where he was a patient until 20 November when he was given two-weeks leave, after which he was ordered to report to No.1 Command Depot at Perham Down on Salisbury Plain. Clarence eventually returned to France in early January 1917 and made his way to the Australian General Base Depot in Etaples, however, within days he was admitted to the 18th General Hospital in Camiers suffering from mumps.
The engineers had begun 1917 based in Fricourt and were at Longueval when Clarence rejoined his section on 12 February, yet within a month he was briefly re-admitted to hospital suffering from measles but back with the company on 18 March. In June the 4th Australian Division (of which the 13th formed part) took part in the Battle of Messines. In the attack, the engineers were tasked with creating and maintaining tracks to allow supplies and munitions to be brought forward to the front lines. The work was dangerous, and the sappers were in constant danger from enemy gun and shellfire. At 8 pm on 8 June, all sections left their base at Keepaway Farm to construct a series of strong points in the front lines; however, just as they arrived at the support trenches a heavy enemy artillery barrage rained down upon them, forcing the men to seek cover in shell holes. The war diary records that there was a great deal of confusion owing to the belief that the enemy was making an attack, during which period Clarence was shot in his left shoulder. For the second time in the war he was evacuated back to England, and on this occasion, admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth.
After recovering from his wounds, Clarence spent the rest of 1917 based in the UK, firstly at No.2 Command Depot in Weymouth, which accommodated those men not expected to be fit for duty within six months, and then to No.4 Command Depot in Codford on 4 September. Ten days later he was transferred back to the Australian Engineers Training Depot at Brightlingsea (via Perham Down) for final training before returning overseas.
Clarence returned to France for a third time on 5 March 1918 and marched into the AGBD at Rouelles the following day. A week later he was drafted back to his unit and rejoined them in Flanders on the 16th. A week later the division was sent back to the Somme to help stem the German Spring Offensive, which started on 21 March. Unlike previously, and despite this dangerous period of the war, Clarence made it through without succumbing to any new injuries, however; his old wounds had not healed properly, and as the spring turned to summer he would find himself becoming increasingly uncomfortable. At the end of August, the pain must have become unbearable resulting in Clarence being seen by a doctor at the 13th Australian Field Ambulance who immediately transferred him to the 12th General Hospital in Rouen.
On 2 September Clarence left France for the final time and embarked for England where he soon found himself a patient at the Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol. Over a month later, with his wounds finally healing, he was admitted to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford, Kent to recuperate. Sapper Wishart reported back to duty on 4 November and thereafter stationed at No.4 Command Depot, which by then had moved from Codford to Hurdcott. Clarence’s time in Europe came to an end on 18 December when he left London on board the HMAT Aeneas. The voyage home was long, and on arrival in Albany, Western Australia on 27 January 1919 the ship was placed in quarantine for forty-eight hours due to an outbreak of influenza on board earlier in the month.
Two months later on 28 March Clarence was discharged from the military and within a week returned to the railways, where following a medical examination, he was passed fit to become an engine fireman. In 1919 and 1922 Clarence and Mary became parents to two sons, and in 1934 he was promoted to engine driver – a job he held until retiring in 1953. The family lived on Wellington Street in Northam where, six years after his wife died, Clarence passed away on 5 November 1957, aged 64.
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