740 Cpl. Norman McLeod Wishart (1888 – 1918)
Norman McLeod Wishart was born in St. Kilda, Victoria during 1888 and the eighth of nine children of John Wishart, a grocer from Paisley, and his wife, Annie Elizabeth Langhade. The family lived above a shop and by 1912 were residents of Carlisle Street. Norman had left school and was working as a clerk.
Shortly before the war began in 1914, Norman moved to a suburb of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia known as Parkeston. He lived at the Rising Sun Hotel and was working as a clerk for the railways, which could explain the move from Victoria. Like many others enthused with patriotic fervour, Norman enlisted in the first few weeks of the war and signed up on 17 August 1914 at Kalgoorlie. He was sent to the training camp at Blackboy Hill, which was east of Perth, and assigned to ‘F’ Company, 11th Infantry Battalion of the 3rd Brigade on 5 September.
On 31 October, at Freemantle, Norman boarded the HMAT Ascanius which would form part of the first Australian contingent heading for the Middle East. The ship left on 2 November and joined the main convoy at sea the following day. ‘F’ Company comprised of three officers and 113 men and arrived at Port Said, Egypt exactly one month after leaving Australia. The Ascanius then proceeded through the Suez Canal to Alexandria where Norman disembarked on 6 December. The men travelled by train to Cairo and made their way to the Mena Camp where they continued training.
Norman left Egypt with his unit on board the HMT Suffolk for the Island of Lemnos on 1 March 1915. It does not appear that he took part in the first landings at Gallipoli on 25 April, but joined the battalion on the peninsula on 7 May as part of the first draft of reinforcements. Norman was now a member of ‘B’ Company, and on 22 June, while based at Anzac Cove, was admitted to hospital suffering from tonsillitis. He was evacuated back to Egypt five days later and spent several days recuperating at the 17th General Hospital. Norman eventually rejoined the 11th shortly after they were in action at Lone Pine, and left with them for Mudros in mid-November. During the next month, while based at Sarpi Camp, he returned to hospital several times with an inflamed neck before eventually sailing back to Egypt with the battalion at the start of January 1916.
On 29 February 1916, while based at Serapeum, Norman was transferred into the newly-raised 51st Battalion – half of which comprised of men from the 11th who had fought at Gallipoli. The battalion became part of the 13th Brigade in the 4th Australian Division and based in Egypt until the start of June when they travelled to the Western Front. During this period Norman had been temporarily assigned to the 13th Training Battalion and hence did not stay on the Continent, but proceded to camp at Rollestone in England for further instruction.
On 21 July 1916 he left for France and returned to the 51st Battalion, who were based on the Somme. In August Norman likely took part in the action at Mouquet Farm when his unit lost about a third of its strength, but was admitted sick himself to the 18th General Hospital in Camiers on 2 September and discharged back to duty on 4 October. The next few weeks were spent at the 4th Australian Division Base Depot in Etaples during which time Norman was made to forfeit ten days pay for urinating in the vicinity of the 5th ADBD canteen. He eventually rejoined his unit at Vignacourt with eleven other men on 4 November and spent the remainder of the year alternating between the front line trenches and training and labouring in the rear.
The winter of 1916/17 was the harshest of the entire war, with men of the 51st battling the elements more than fighting the enemy. As a result of the conditions, and with a greatly reduced fighting strength, it was incredible that in early 1917 the battalion was able to take part in the advance on the Hindenberg line. Norman survived the Arctic climate and attacked Noreuil, an outpost village near the Hindenberg Line, on 2 April. The assault was a success but came at the cost of 239 casualties.
Norman was promoted to corporal on 1 May and transferred to the 4th Divisional Australian Army Ordnance Corps when he would have been responsible for the supply and storage of machinery and ammunition. Throughout the summer of 1917, he was in and out of hospital suffering from an STD and was eventually back in the field by mid-September. On 27 January 1918, he was given fourteen-days leave back to England. He was recorded as being killed in action on 2 May 1918; however, no further details survive as to how he died other than a newspaper obituary reporting that it was at the Somme.
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