On 4 December 1864 a young farmer from Kirkwall, Orkney named David Wishart arrived in Melbourne, Australia from London on board the Pride of the Ocean. He settled northwest of the town of Bendigo in Inglewood, Victoria and married nearby in Castlemaine on 2 February 1875 to a Glaswegian named Margaret Jane Buchanan. Eight children were born of the marriage, and by the late 1880s, the family had moved to Korong Vale. The third child, a son named David Thomas Henry, was born in Serpentine Creek on 13 March 1885. By the time he was twenty the family had moved to Wedderburn Junction and he followed his father into farming.
Following the outbreak of war in 1914, David’s younger brother Charles enlisted in Bendigo on 7 February 1916. David followed on a little over two weeks later and was sent to the 16th Depot Battalion in Bendigo on 9 March. On 2 April he was posted to the Army Camp at Broadmeadows and attached to the 18th Reinforcements, 6th Infantry Battalion before being transferred to the 19th Reinforcements, 5th Infantry Battalion on 28 July – the day he left from Melbourne on board the Themistocles for England.
The voyage took about forty days and David eventually disembarked in Plymouth on 11 September where the reinforcements marched to join the 2nd Training Battalion at No 3 Camp at Perham Down which was a large military camp on the edge of Salisbury Plain, and one of the main concentration areas for ANZAC troops before they left for France. At the end of September David was posted to Lark Hill Camp and taken on strength of the 38th Infantry Battalion. Training continued including a spell experiencing life in dummy trenches located near camp. In his book ‘The story and official history of the 38th Battalion A.I.F.’ Eric Fairey wrote of the experience:
Leaving Lark Hill in daylight the Tenth Brigade (37th, 38th, 39th, 40th Battalions) marched to the Bustard Trenches, six miles out of camp, and experienced the unpleasant conditions of winter warfare. Rain swept the open country and poured into the white-chalk trenches. When at night several companies entered the trenches to take up their positions, men floundered through pools of whitewash and got covered with sticky white mud. Verey lights went hissing up through the driving rain to illuminate a dreary landscape. Rifles cracked, and the dull detonations of hand grenades momentarily drowned the angry hissing of the rain. Here and there feeble attempts had been made to build dug-outs, but these excavations were small and afforded but poor protection in the weather. Men huddled up in their sodden overcoats and settled down to the long. dreary hours of darkness.
The battalion left Southampton for France on the night of 22 November and disembarked in Le Havre in the early hours of the following day. David’s first encounter with the front lines came on 1 December when his unit relieved New Zealand troops in the Houplines area. Conditions were terrible and many men were forced to enter the line through deep, narrow trenches that were waist-deep in water. Shortly after David arrived at the front he would have heard the news that his brother Charles had been killed on 27 November. One can only imagine how hard the loss must have hit David, and perhaps the winter of 1916/17, which is notable for being the harshest of the war, must have been a miserable time for him.
The spring of 1917 was extremely late in coming, however, by mid-May, when the battalion moved up into Ploegsteert Wood; it was in full effect with the men recorded as ‘enjoying themselves in the warm sunshine’ and ‘stretching themselves out on grassy beds.’ On the 22nd they took over a portion of the front line beyond the wood between ‘Ainscroft Avenue’ and ‘Ash Lane’ from where at 2:00 am on the 28th, a raiding party of seven officers and 214 ranks attacked the enemy. The body of men was divided into two columns with one managing to enter the enemy trenches and take a prisoner. Casualties were heavy, with 2 Officers and 28 ranks killed or missing and 2 Officers, 63 ranks wounded. David was among the 63 having sustained gunshot wounds to a foot, leg and shoulder. After receiving basic treatment at the 9th Field Ambulance, he was evacuated to No 13 General Hospital in Boulogne the following day, however, his injuries were deemed severe enough to warrant a return to England and he was transported to the Kitchener Military Hospital in Brighton via the hospital ship St. Andrew.
By the end of November, David had made sufficient recovery to be considered fit for active duty, and after a spell with the Australian Overseas Training Brigade at Longbridge Deverill, he began the journey back to the Western Front from Southampton on 12 December – arriving back with the battalion six days later. At the time David rejoined his comrades, they were based at Aldershot Camp near Neuve Eglise and during October had been in action at Passchendaele where they suffered almost 400 casualties.
David found himself back in the trenches at the end of January 1918 and was in action again during late-March, when the battalion was rushed south to France from Flanders to head off the German Spring Offensive, which began on the 21st. In early July, while on leave to Paris, David was admitted to the temporary hospital at the Astoria Hotel suffering from flu, and eventually rejoined the battalion at the end of the month, however, his symptoms persisted and he was re-admitted to the 47th General Hospital in Le Treport during early August. After being discharged back to duty at the end of September, David rejoined the battalion in Bailleul on 7 October. A week earlier the 38th had taken part in their last major battle of the war as part of a combined Australian-American force that breached the Hindenburg Line along the St Quentin Canal. After this, the battalion entered a relatively quiet period, and many men were afforded some long-overdue leave. David was among those and left for England on the 24th and returned to France two days before the Armistice was signed on 11 November.
On 17 January 1919, David departed for the Australian General Base Depot where he eventually received orders to return to Australia on 28 February and sailed from Le Havre back to England the following day. On 1 May, 900 ANZAC troops embarked in London on board the Karagola and disembarked at the new pier, Port Melbourne a 2:00 pm on Thursday 12 June. David was among them and subsequently demobilised on 27 July after which he returned to Wedderburn Junction, where he found work as a general labourer. A year after he returned home David married Kathleen Eileen Ross and six children were born of the union. The family lived in Korong Vale, where David returned to farming and lived until his death aged 76 on 18 January 1961.