Capt. Aylmer James Reidford Wishart MC (1895 – 1935)
Aylmer James Reidford Wishart was the second son of Andrew and Agnes Wishart from Burntisland. His father, a masters graduate from Edinburgh University, was a Writer to the Signet and lived with his wife at 22 Balmoral Place in Edinburgh when Aylmer was born on 26 August 1895. By 1901 the family had moved to 32 Inverleith Terrace, Aylmer had become a student at the Edinburgh Academy which at that time was a day and boarding school for boys. While at the Academy he took a keen interest in rifle shooting, and in 1911 was part of the school team who won the Midlothian Trophy at Malleny, the Brock Challenge Shield at Darnley, and the Ashburton Shield at Bisley. Aylmer was also quite the scholar, and during his final year before starting university, he won the Second Academical Club Prize for modern subjects as well as the Gloag Medal and the Mackenzie prize for mathematics and the Balfour prize for German.
In 1912 Aylmer began studying science at Edinburgh University and soon became involved in inter-University rifle shooting; notching up a record score of 919 in a match held during 1913. The same year he joined the Edinburgh University (Engineers) O.T.C. with whom he attained the rank of cadet lance corporal. In October 1914 he was accepted into the Royal Military College in Sandhurst and passed out into the Royal Engineers on 22 April 1915.
2nd Lieutenant A J R Wishart left for the Western Front on 19 November 1915 and joined the 153rd Field Coy at Bienvillers five days later. By mid-March 1916 the company was based near Doullens on the Somme and during early September, while at Bois de la Haie, he left for the Special Works Park which was an engineers camouflage unit. While away Aylmer fell ill with a fever and eventually rejoined the 153rd at Beauquesne on 7 December. A fortnight later he went on leave for the second time since arriving in France and returned on New Years Day 1917. On 23 March while at Rebreuviette, Aylmer and a man from the ranks were tasked with reconnoitring the forward area in preparation for the planned attack at Arras, and returned two days later to make their report. The battle began on 9 April, with the 153rd providing logistical support for the assault. The appendices in the Company War Diary make numerous mentions of Aylmer, including an entry for 10 April:
While at the Bn. H.Q. of the 6th Bedfords the O.C. ascertained that two 8ins howitzers had been captured and were in the front line. Instructions were obtained by telephone from the Brigadier to destroy these howitzers. The O.C. with 2/Lt. WISHART, a Sergeant with one Sapper, proceeded to the site and carried out the destruction of these howitzers.
Following the battle, on 8 May, Aylmer was given five days leave to Paris and upon his return, was engaged in establishing the positions of new communication trenches, often under heavy shellfire, and occasionally gas attacks. On several occasions during the night, he crawled out into No Man’s Land with two sappers to lay out jumping-off tape, which was used to mark the forming-up line of the battalions before an attack. On 4 June 1917 Aylmer was awarded the military cross. His citation read:
Conspicuous gallantry and devotion in carrying out successful reconnaissances, both by day and by night, under heavy fire, by which he was able to locate the exact positions of the enemy.
On 19 September Aylmer was promoted to lieutenant, and temporarily took over command of the company at the start of October. In mid-November, he was promoted again to Captain and almost immediately attached to the Corps of Royal Engineers 37th Divisional HQ, with who he was appointed adjutant on 15 December. No further mention of Aylmer is recorded in the company War Diary, so it is possible he spent the next two years at Division Headquarters.
After the war, and based on his medal card, Aylmer also saw active service in Afghanistan during 1919 before being stationed in India. He had reverted to the rank of lieutenant, however, in 1923 had returned to captain, and in 1932 became a major. The previous year he married Irma Patricia Harry in Kensington, London and returned to India with her shortly after the wedding. In October 1933 a daughter named Phoebe was born in Roorke, Bengal, however, tragically she died seven months later of enteritis.
On 21 April 1935, while passing through the Suez Canal on board the RMS Strathaird, Aylmer died of chronic interstitial nephritis. He had embarked with his wife in Bombay for Plymouth, and he was subsequently buried at sea.
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