5/2559 Pte. Thomas Wishart (1894 – 1916)
Thomas Wishart was born on 21 February 1894 at 220 Conyers Road in the Byker area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was the second of three sons born to David Alexander Wishart, a local chipper and caulker who worked in the Newcastle shipyards, and his wife, Elizabeth Renforth. By 1901 Thomas’s father was employed as a boilermaker, and eventually, Thomas took on an apprenticeship in the same profession, probably working in the same shipyard as his father in 1911 when he was lodging with his sister and brother-in-law at 51 High Fell Street in Newcastle.
Thomas enlisted in the very early days of the war and joined the 1/5th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers – a Territorial unit based in Walker. Following a period of training, the battalion manned defences on the Tyne until 20 April 1915 when they entrained at Blyth for Folkestone and embarked aboard the S.S. Victoria for Boulogne.
Within days of arrival 5/2559 Pte. Thomas Wishart marched through France into Belgium where he gained his first experience of battle at the Second Battle of Ypres, which was notable for the first use of poison gas by the Germans.
After a spell at Sanctuary Wood, and then Neuve Eglise, the battalion (who were part of the 149th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division) transferred to the Armetieres sector in mid-July – remaining there until the end of October. The months of November and the first half of December were spent in Strazeele before the battalion returned to Ypres and took up positions along the line at Blawepoort Farm several days before Christmas.
In the absence of any surviving service papers, it is not known precisely where Thomas was based although it seems likely he remained in the Ypres salient until the end of March 1916. At some point, he returned to England, and on 7 June he married Sarah Allcock in the Byker Parish Church. In all probability, he returned to the front immediately after the wedding and was possibly among the three men seriously wounded on 16 July when the Germans hit the Northumberland’s position with trench mortars.
He was evacuated back to the UK but died of his wounds in Stoke-on-Trent (possibly the Stoke Military Hospital) on 22 July 1916 and buried in the Byker and Heaton Cemetery (grave D. C. 100.)
After Thomas’s death, Sarah gave birth to two illegitimate sons (both of which died in infancy), and she eventually remarried in 1920 to a James Hutton.
In addition to his headstone, Thomas was also commemorated on a roll of honour created by the Byker No.1 Branch of the Boilermakers, Iron & Steel Shipbuilders Society, which is currently held in the Tyne & Wear Museum as well as the war memorial in St. Lawrence Churchyard.
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