George Wishart was born on 2 January 1882 in Aberdeen, the third of seven children of Robert Watson Wishart, a local cabinet maker and upholsterer, and his wife, Isabella Robertson. The family lived at 9 Commerce Street but had moved to 25 Rose Street by 1891 and then 30 Victoria Street around the turn of the century. After leaving school, Robert took up an apprenticeship at cabinetmakers (possibly with his father) and in 1909 left Scotland for Australia – sailing from Glasgow aboard the S.S. Morayshire and arriving in Sydney on 22 June.
Before the war, George lived in Gembrook, Victoria and worked as a groom. He enlisted in Melbourne on 15 March 1915 with the 6th Reinforcements of the 5th Infantry Battalion. Following a period of training, he embarked in Sydney aboard H.M.A.T. (His Majesty’s Australian Transport) A40 Ceramic on the 25 June 1915 and after almost six weeks at sea arrived in Gallipoli on 5 August, where he was taken on strength of the battalion along with 140 other ranks.
George’s unit landed at Anzac Cove on 25 April and had been in action during May in the attack on the village of Krithia. Almost immediately after George joined his unit, they were in action at Lone Pine which would become one of the most famous battles of the campaign.
George would spend the rest of his time in Gallipoli at Lone Pine, but like thousands of others, he fell ill due to the impoverished and unsanitary conditions and was evacuated from the peninsula on 30 September and admitted to the No.2 Australian Stationary Hospital at West Mudros suffering from suspected influenza. His condition worsened, and three days later he was transferred to No.18 Stationary Hospital at Mudros suffering from dysentery. On the 21st the decision was made to send George to England for further treatment on board the H.S. (hospital ship) Aquitania, which was previously a Cunard ocean liner. He arrived on the 27th and admitted to the Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Hampshire suffering from enteric fever (Typhoid).
After he recovered, George was sent to the Australian camp at Montevideo in Weymouth and based there until 21 February 1916, when he was passed fit to return to duty. Two days later he sailed for Egypt on the H.T. Kingstonian and following the eleven-day voyage he disembarked in Alexandria on 5 March. George eventually rejoined the battalion at Serapeum on the 11th and attached to ‘C’ Company.
Unbeknown to him at the time, the war was about to take George back to Europe, and two weeks after returning to his unit he sailed with them to France on board the O.C. Troopship Briton. After disembarking in Marseilles on 30 March, the 5th entrained for the front and at the end of April were deployed to the trenches in the Fleurbaix Sector where they were based until early June.
On 23 July the Australian Division launched what would be their first operation at the Battle of the Somme when they attacked the village of Pozières. George’s battalion came into action in the early hours of the 25th and advanced on the OG1 (Old German) and OG2 lines. The assault took place in the dark and required the men to make several tricky manoeuvres under enemy fire. Despite reaching both objectives, things began to unravel when the enemy was spotted moving back along OG1. To avoid being cut off, the Australians withdrew back to the line and engaged the Germans in a frenzied bomb-fight. Battalion casualties were heavy, with six officers and 39 other ranks killed, six officers and 242 other ranks wounded and one officer and 158 other ranks missing. George numbered among the latter and eventually reported as killed in action at a court of enquiry held on the 26 November 1916.
The following correspondence was received, and sent by the war office following George’s disappearance:
From: Mr R W Wishart of 272 Great Western Road, Aberdeen (September 16th, 1916)
Gent, I shall be obliged if you will enter the name of my son in your enquiry list for missing soldiers. Particulars as follows:
No. 2244 Private G Wishart, 5th Battalion Australian Imperial Force serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France. Reported missing since 25th July 1916.
These are all the particulars I can get from the front at the present. If there is any further information required kindly let me know.
Yours respectfully, R W Wishart
Reply from: ‘V.D.’ Secretary
To: R. W. Wishart Esq., 272, Great Western Road, Aberdeen
We have received your enquiry for No. 2244 Pte. G. Wishart, 5th Australia Btn., and regret to inform you that we have no news to send you. We are making all possible enquiries, and shall let you know as soon as we hear anything, as we relaise (sic) how anxious you must be.
Assuring you of our deepest sympathy, I am, Yours faithfully,
From: Miss E. McCarthy of ‘Darriwill’ Moorabool, Victoria (undated)
To: Officer in charge, Base Records Office
Could you give me any information re: N.2244 Pte. Geo Wishart “C” Company 5th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Australian Division. He left here with the 6th Reinforcements and I have been receiving letters from him ever since until about 2 months ago so would be very thankful if you could give me any information.
Yours truly, (Miss) E. McCarthy
Reply from: Major, Officer i/c Base Records
To: Miss K McCarthy, “Darriwil”, Moorabool, Victoria
In reply to your letter (undated). I regret to inform you that No. 2244 Private George Wishart, 5th Battalion, is reported in a cable message as missing since 25/7/16.
No further news has up to the present been received, but it is understood that everything possible is being done by the authorities overseas to endeavour to trace members of the Force so reported.
Yours faithfully, Major, Officer i/c Base Records
George’s body was eventually found and buried in the vicinity of Pozières but subsequently exhumed and reburied in the Serre Road Cemetery No.2 during 1928 (Grave No XXII.D.8.)