George Ronald Sinclair Wishart was born on 7 November 1891 at 8 Livingstone Avenue in Toxteth Park, Liverpool. He was the only child of George Dunnett Wishart, a tobacco merchant from Thurso in Scotland, and his wife, Christian Hutton Steele.
In late summer 1893 scandal hit the Wishart family when George Snr. was arrested for defrauding the Northwestern Bank of a sum exceeding £19,000 (around £2,000,000 in 2015) and sentenced to two years in prison. On release, George left Liverpool and sailed for America leaving his wife and son in the UK. He eventually went bankrupt in 1904 and was sent to debtor’s prison, dying in St. Louis around 1910.
Christian and her son also left Liverpool around the time George went to prison and settled in the Newington area of Edinburgh, where they were enumerated in the 1901 census lodging at 100 Polwarth Gardens. George, now 9, was recorded without his birth forename (perhaps it reminded his mother of his disgraced father) and for the remainder of his life was known as Ronald Sinclair Wishart.
Shortly after his mother died at the start of 1906, Ronald left the UK on board the S.S. Furnessia – sailing from Glasgow on 17 March 1906 and disembarking in the Port of New York nine days later.
On arrival, Ronald stated he was going to join his father George in New York, however, by 1910 he was living with his aunt in St. Louis and had found work as an electrician for a telephone company.
At the outbreak of war in August 1914 Ronald had moved to New York City and was employed as a telegrapher for the Morkrum Company, who manufactured automatic printing telegraph apparatus for the Western Union, various press associations and railway companies in both America and Canada. Although America would not join the war for another three years, Ronald’s British roots must have tugged at his patriotic heart, and he joined the New York National Guard on 6 November 1914, perhaps with the hope that America would enter the War.
Pte. R S Wishart was assigned to Coy ‘A’, 1st Battalion Signal Corps and rose to the rank of corporal in June 1916 when his unit was called for federal service along the Mexican border.
A year later on 28 July 1917, Ronald (who had been promoted to sergeant) was transferred to Coy ‘B’. On 1 October the battalion was re-designated as the 102nd Field Signal Battalion (27th Division.) Ronald’s role was that of master signaler electrician, and shortly before being posted overseas he was assigned to Coy ‘C’ and sent for training at Camp Wadsworth, near Spartanburg, South Carolina.
On 17 May 1918, Ronald sailed for France with his battalion on board the USS Pocahontas. The voyage took thirteen days, and as the ship entered the Bay of Biscay, it engaged several lurking U-Boats but was eventually able to dock in St. Nazaire.
Ronald’s first two months in Picardy and Flanders were spent training, and it is likely he got his first taste of life on the front line in early July. During August he took charge of the signals for the 107th Infantry in the Dickebusch Lake sector. The German army had begun its retreat, and it’s likely Ronald was involved in the attacks on German strong points at Mt. Kemmel on 1-2 September.
On 25 September the 107th was positioned in front of the St. Quentin Canal tunnel, which formed part of the Hindenberg Line. At 4 am on the 29th Ronald moved up into the front line near Guillemont Farm, and prepared for zero hour, which had been set for 6 am.
Almost immediately after the whistles signalling the start of the attack blew, Ronald was hit by machine-gun fire in his shoulder and arm; however, he refused to retire from the battlefield and pushed forward with the attacking infantry until 11 am – inspiring the men of his detachment as he advanced.
The battle lasted two days, with the 107th losing 22 officers killed or wounded, 324 men killed, and a staggering 874 wounded. Despite the horrendous cost in terms of casualties, the attack succeeded and broke through the Hindenburg Line.
Ronald was sent to hospital to recover from his wounds and remained in Europe until 15 March 1919, when he arrived back in New York on board the SS Hollandia. Ten days later the 27th Division paraded down Fifth Avenue, and the 102nd were invited to a welcome home supper at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Ronald’s war came to an end on 4 April 1919 when he was demobilized. Returning to Chicago, he resumed his job as an electrical engineer with his old employer.
In June 1919 Morkrum proposed sending Ronald back to France to take care of the engineering work in connection with the demonstration of their equipment to the French government. Having completed an application for a passport to travel and also becoming a naturalized citizen, Ronald embarked on the SS Niagara on 10 July and returned to a continent devastated by war. He remained overseas until late 1920, when he sailed back to America from Antwerp on 11 November.
Ronald married Elizabeth Lathrop Phillips on 6 April 1924 in Brooklyn with two sons and a daughter born of the marriage. Tragically Elizabeth died five years later, and Ronald lived with his children at 90 Cedar Avenue in Hempstead, New York until at least 1942.
He died on 26 February 1976 in Denver, Colorado and was buried in Greenfield Cemetery, Uniondale, Nassau County, New York.