Between 1878 and 1898 James Wishart, an agricultural labourer from Kirkcaldy, and his wife, Mary Ann Cockrell, became parents to ten children. Arthur Thomas, born on 15 February 1891 in Dedham, Essex, was the sixth child and the third of five sons.
Arthur’s father died in 1902, and by 1911 he and his brothers Silas and Percy were working the fields and providing for their widowed mother and younger siblings. Their older brother Robert had joined the military in 1901 and was a gunner serving with the Royal Field Artillery when war broke out in August 1914. Arthur followed his Robert into the artillery and enlisted in Colchester on 8 January 1915. He was sent to No. 4 Depot in Woolwich for training, and attached to the 12th and then 19th (Reserve) Batteries until 7 May, when he was drafted overseas to France. On arrival, Arthur made his way to Ypres, where he joined the 62nd Battery (part of the 3rd Brigade, RFA) who had recently seen action at Frezenberg. During his time at the Western Front it’s likely Arthur was present at the Battle of Loos, however, in late October the Battery was ordered to Salonika. The journey took the artillerymen through France to Marseille and across the Mediterranean to Alexandria in Egypt where they boarded a ship bound for the Balkans.
During this period Arthur was promoted to acting bombardier – rising to full bombardier on 23 April 1916. Later that year, the battery saw action during the occupation of Mazirko and the capture of Barikli Jum’a and was involved in several battles throughout 1917, including the capture of Ferdie and Essex Trenches (near Barikli Jum’a) and then the capture of Barikli and Kumli. In 1918 Arthur was given 46 days leave beginning 15 August meaning that he missed the Second Battle of Doiran in September, and arrived back with the 62nd shortly after hostilities with Bulgaria ceased.
After a month based in the area of Trnovo, and following the Armistice between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire at the end of October, the 62nd were sent to Gallipoli in early November, where they occupied the Dardanelles Forts. Arthur was promoted to acting corporal on 28 November and eventually began the long journey back to England on 17 April 1919 – arriving on 1 May.
A month later on 3 June, Arthur was discharged from service, having been deemed no longer physically fit for active duty. After over four years in the military, he returned to his home on Coopers Lane in Dedham and resumed his pre-war career as a bricklayer.
Arthur died in Colchester during 1973 and never married.