David Wishart was born on 7 March 1897 at Defoe Place in Lower Largo. He was the first of seven children of Daniel Wishart, a local fisherman, and his wife Charlotte Duncan. By 1901 the Wisharts had moved to 12 Iona Street in Leith and were lodging with the family of Francis Dundas, an aerated water van driver from Caithness. Daniel had found work as a foundry labourer however by 1911 he had returned to Fife and was employed as a pilot in the Methil dockyards. The family lived on Durie Street and young David brought home a wage producing firewood in a factory. By the time he was 17 he was down the mines working for the Fife Coal Company and perhaps, in an effort to escape the harsh working conditions, he enlisted in Leven on 6 January 1914 with the 2nd Highland Brigade (Fife Battery), Royal Field Artillery, which was a Territorial Unit based in the town. David was initially given the role of Driver, however, as soon as war broke out on 4 August 1914 he was embodied for service the next day and assigned the rank of Gunner. At the time he signed up, David was recorded by the examining medical officer as being 5ft 6 1/2″ tall with a 37″ chest, perfect eyesight and good physical development.
He was based in the UK until 5 November 1915, when he left for France and likely made his way to the artillery base depot in Le Havre before heading out to join his unit in the field on 9 December. The Brigade, which formed part of the 51st Highland Division, was on the Somme, which, in 1915, was a relatively quiet part of the front. David would have to wait until Spring 1916 before he was involved in any kind of action, and in early/ mid-April he spent just over a week being treated for scabies in a Field Ambulance. In May 1916 the 2nd Highland Brigade was renamed to 256 Brigade with David’s battery being redesignated ‘B’ Battery. On 1 June he was attached to the 3rd Army Trench Mortar School at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise for two-weeks training in the use of trench mortars. After another week’s instruction during the second week of July, David would have been in action at the Somme, probably manning one of the heavier trench mortars, in the attacks on High Wood and then in November at The Battle of the Ancre.
On 29 November 1916 David was given 10 days leave and then in 1917 was likely present at the Arras Offensive in the spring and then at Third Ypres in the summer. He was wounded by shrapnel in his right arm and chest on 21 August 1917 and admitted to 33 Field Ambulance before being transferred to No. 6 General Hospital in Rouen. On 22 September David was discharged to No. 2 Convalescent Depot and eventually rejoined his unit in the field on 10 October in time for the Battle of Cambrai which began in late-November. He remained in the area until March 1918 during which time he spent ten days at the Divisional Rest Camp from 14 February.
On 21 March 1918, the enemy launched what would be commonly known as the ‘German Spring Offensive’ which resulted in the 51st Division being pushed back to Bapaume. In April the battery was brought into action at the Battles of the Lys before moving to the Arras area between May and July. David was awarded 14 days Field Punishment No.2 on 14 May for ‘using obscene language relating to a warrant officer’ and probably saw further action at the Battle of the Tardenois at the end of July. Between 2 – 16 August he was granted leave to the UK via Boulogne and returned as the brigade was engaging the enemy in the Hundred Days Offensive that concluded with the armistice on 11 November. Seven days later David was appointed the rank of paid lance bombardier and he eventually returned to the UK on 18 December and was demobilised on 31 March 1919.
Perhaps it was the thought of returning to the coal mines, or maybe David just liked the military life that prompted him to re-enlist in August 1919. He joined the Royal Navy and was initially based at the Royal Naval Division training depot in Crystal Palace before being posted to HMS Champion as Stoker (1st Class) on 8 November. The ship had been in action at Jutland in 1916 and at the time David joined, was operating as a training ship with the Vernon Torpedo School. In 1921 David found himself part of the crew of HMS Caroline and based at the East Indies Station and would continue in service with the Navy until 20 August 1926.
After leaving the Navy David returned to sea with the Merchant Service, and during World War Two worked as a fireman on the vessel Ocean Valentine. On 21 August 1942, he married a hotel cook named Helen Penman Adamson in Leith. Little else is know about David’s life other than that he is probably the David Wishart who died in Edinburgh during 1971.