On 12 April 1891 in Cromwell, New Zealand, Robert Wishart, a blacksmith from Kincardineshire, and his wife Janet Pringle, became parents to a son and named him Allan William. He was the sixth of ten children and after leaving school learnt the blacksmith trade from his father. Before the war, Allan worked at Bett and Bayley’s motor garage in Palmerston North using his skills to build and maintain cars. Before he left home, he had also served two years with a local militia outfit known as the Cromwell Volunteers.
Allan enlisted in Palmerston North on 28 August 1914 and joined the New Zealand Field Artillery as a shoeing smith. Shortly before he left for the war, he had relations with a spinster from Hokitika named Olive Jane Davies and an illegitimate son was born nine months later (Allan eventually married Olive in 1919.) The Main Body of the NZEF sailed from Wellington on 16 October in a convoy of ten troopships. In addition to about 8,500 men, almost 4,000 horses left as part of the force with Allan playing a vital role in their upkeep during the voyage, which took 50 days.
In December 1914 the Anzac corps (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) came into being and was stationed in Egypt before taking part in the Gallipoli landings. During this time Allan was promoted to farrier sergeant and left for the Dardanelles on 12 April 1915 with the 3rd Battery Field Artillery. He arrived at Anzac Cove on the 25th on board the Californian; however, the battery remained off-shore until 4 May, when they received orders to disembark at Cape Helles, where Allan would have been based until mid-August when he returned to Anzac.
On 29 August Allan was sent to a hospital with frontal sinusitis and transferred to Malta on board the hospital ship Devanha seven days later. After a month recuperating at St. John’s Hospital Allan left for camp at Mudros, where he waited for transfer back to Gallipoli; however, he was taken back to Malta shortly after arrival suffering from fever and jaundice.
Allan was declared fit for duty on 3 December and sailed back to Egypt, where he rejoined his old unit and based at Moascar until 6 April 1916, when the 3rd Battery left for France. The New Zealand artillery arrived at the Western Front as part of the New Zealand Division with the battery (part of the 1st Brigade) spending several months based in the Armentieres sector, before eventually seeing action at the Somme in September.
In late-May 1917 Allan was admitted sick to the 77th Field Ambulance, a mobile front line medical unit, before being sent to the 51st General Hospital in Etaples, which was a specialist venereal disease hospital. He was eventually discharged to the New Zealand Base Depot at Etaples, where he remained until early October.
During the summer the 3rd had taken part in the battles of Messines and Passchendaele and were still in Belgium when Allan rejoined on 18 October. In the first week of December, the New Zealand artillery moved into the line in support of the divisional infantry with batteries of the 1st Brigade situated on slopes forward from Hooge Crater. On 16 December, and after a month at the front, Allan was granted two-weeks leave to the UK. On the day he was due to return to Belgium, he was admitted to No. 2 New Zealand General Hospital in Walton-on-Thames suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
Almost three weeks later on 18 January 1918, Allan was transferred to the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital in Hornchurch and discharged back to service on 12 February, when he proceeded to camp at Aldershot. In mid-April, he returned to his battery who were now back at the Somme. The New Zealand Division had been engaged in stopping a German breakthrough towards Amiens, gradually gaining the upper hand and stabilising the front. Allan remained with the 3rd until the end of the war and would have been present at numerous attacks over the next seven months, including the breaking of the Hindenburg Line and at Le Quesnoy. After the Armistice, the Division formed part of the Army of Occupation and marched into Germany where they secured the bridgeheads on the Rhine.
Demobilisation of the brigade commenced at the start of 1919, and after four years, 202 days, Allan began the long journey home back to New Zealand. The train journey to the coast took two days, after which the artillerymen sailed for England and proceeded to Sling Camp on the Salisbury Plain. While there Allan reputedly visited his aunt, Mary Shimmings (née Wishart) who lived with her husband Andrew in Devizes.
Allan left Plymouth on 17 March 1919 and arrived in New Zealand on 5 May. Three days later he married Olive in Christchurch and was eventually discharged from service on 2 June. He returned to blacksmithing and lived at 264 Worcester Street in Christchurch, however; his life over the next fourteen years appears to have been quite tumultuous with his marriage seemingly the first casualty. By the end of 1919, his wife was already living apart from her husband (in 1921 Allan was resident at the Splint and Limb Factory in the Christchurch Children’s Hospital) and a newspaper article printed on 14 November 1923 gives further insight into the situation:
Allan William Wishart was convicted and sentenced to three months imprisonment for the disobedience of a maintenance order, the issue of the warrant to be suspended provided the arrears are paid at the rate of 15s a week in addition to the current payments.
Despite the prison sentence Allan appears to have failed to fulfil his responsibilities. Another article, published 30 July 1924, reads:
Olive Jane Wishart (Mr W. F. Tracy) applied for a maintenance order to be made against her father-in-law, Robert Wishart (Mr J. H. Cuningham) in respect of her children. It was stated that the husband of complainant had failed to maintain the children for some time, and that he could not be found, although he was suspected to be somewhere near Wanganui. The children were destitute, therefore the complainant was forced to apply for a maintenance order to be made against the defendant on their behalf. Wishart was ordered to pay 10s per week towards the children’s upkeep, the first payment to be made on August 5th.
Olive died in 1926, by which time Allan was living at a boarding house in Ngāruawāhia. He was admitted to hospital suffering from bluestone poisoning the same year and found himself back in court during September:
Auckland Star – 18 September 1928
Oblivious to the serious consequences of leaving a fire in a bedroom of a city hotel, Alan William Wishart (37) rushed out of the room and down the fire escape, thinking only of his personal safety. He appeared at the Police Court this morning before Mr. F. K. Hunt. S.M., charged with being an idle and disorderly person, with insufficient means for his support.
Sub-Inspector McCarthy said that Wishart had used assumed names, and had stayed at city boarding-houses without paying for his accommodation. He had entered a hotel and got into one of the bedrooms through a window. While there he set alight to the bedding by upsetting a candle, and hastily made his exit down a fire escape. The fire alarm had been given by someone who saw the flames from the street.
Wishart, who was represented by Mr. Bryce Hart, denied that he had used assumed names at the places where he had been staying. He had been in Auckland for about three months, and had just been offered work for the Public Works Department at Pukehuia.
“Why did you leave the room on fire?” questioned Mr. Hunt. “I thought it was out.” pleaded Wishart. The licensee of the hotel said that the whole of the bedding and mattress had been burned and the wall had also caught alight. Accused was convicted and ordered to come up for sentence in six months. “You have got to make good the damage.” said Mr. Hunt, “and don’t go round giving false names.”
New Zealand Herald – 19 September 1928
Fire in a bedroom in an Auckland hotel recently caused damage, estimated at £10, which the lodger, Allen William Wishart, aged 37, blacksmith, was ordered to make good, when charged in the Police Court yesterday with being idle and disorderly. The police alleged accused had no money to support himself, and that while he was at the hotel, the bedding caught fire, causing damage to the room.
According to Mr. Bryce Hart, for accused, Wishart had interviewed the Prime Minister in Wellington, and had received a telegram from Mr Coates a few days ago, advising him of employment in a railway camp. On the suggestion of counsel, Mr. F. K. Hunt, S.M., convicted accused and ordered him to come up for sentence if called upon in six months. He also directed accused to pay for the damage done by the fire.
Allan managed to stay out of trouble for the next four years, during which time he moved to Wellington and worked as an engineer, however; in 1932 The Stratford Evening Post reported:
“This is quite a series of offences,” said Mr E. Page, S.M., in sentencing Allan William Wishart, aged 41, a blacksmith, to three months’ imprisonment on each of three charges of false pretences and three of failing to account for money totalling £17, the sentences to be concurrent.
The police stated that in November of last year Wishart obtained employment selling shares on commission for the Stewart Island Fresh Oyster Co., Ltd. During January he received amounts of £1O, £3 and £2 as application money on the sale of shares, but did not remit the money to his principal. He was dismissed in January for his drinking habits, but in February, representing that he was still employed by the company, he received three sums of £1 as application money for shares.
The police also said that Wishart was at present serving a six months’ term in connection with a maintenance order.
A year later Allan was back in court:
24 April 1933 – Allan William Wishart appeared before Messrs. G. D. McEwen and A. Anderson, J.P.s, in the Petone Court this morning. He pleaded guilty to a charge of forging and uttering at Lower Hutt a cheque for £5 8s, and “was committed to the Supreme Court for sentence. To a charge of failing to account at Palmerston North for £6 1s 2d, thereby committing theft, Wishart also pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
22 May 1933 – “Drink appears to be at the bottom of this man’s trouble,” said the Crown Prosecutor- (Mr. P. S. K. Macassey) about Allan William Wishart, who had pleaded guilty to forgery and uttering at Petone.
His Honour: Yes, that is true. He says he cannot understand how he came to forge this cheque except that was what he calls “alcoholically insane,” but unfortunately that is not borne out by the evidence. There was evidence of deliberation about the manner in which the prisoner had obtained a cheque form and filled it in with a false name and cashed it, his Honour said.
Wishart was sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
After this last incident, Allan appears to have kept his name out of the papers and spent the rest of his life living in Wellington where he died on 5 May 1956.