James Wishart was born on 12 September 1890 at 88 Mill Street in Rutherglen, the eldest child of David Smith Wishart, and his wife, Margaret Davidson. Like his cousin John Brown Wishart, young James got himself a job as a grocer as soon as he had left school. His mother died when he was almost twenty years old, and by 1911 he was living with his widowed father and ten siblings at 260 Mains Street in Rutherglen. A year or so before, James joined the Territorial Forces and served three years with the Army Service Corps, probably as part of the transport and supply column of the Lowland Mounted Brigade, which was formed in Glasgow in 1908.
On 9 May 1913, James left Glasgow for Montreal on board the SS Hesperian – a cargo and passenger liner usually operating on the Liverpool to Canada service that would be sunk by a U-Boat torpedo two years later. The voyage took nine days, and upon arrival, James took up residence in the city on Melrose Avenue, where he found work as a clerk.
James enlisted in Montreal on 19 July 1915 and was taken on strength of the 60th Battalion (Victoria Rifles of Canada), CEF the following day. The battalion had been authorised during the previous April and recruited men from Montreal and the surrounding area. James was assigned to ‘C’ Company and sent for training north of Quebec City at Camp Valcartier. Almost four months later on 6 November the 60th left Montreal for England on board the S.S. Scandinavian and arrived in Portsmouth nine days later. Home for the next three months would be Camp Bramshott in Hampshire which was one of three facilities in the Aldershot Command area established by the Canadian Army.
Several days before the battalion left for France James was promoted to corporal, and embarked with his unit in Southampton on 20 February 1916. Upon arrival in Le Havre, they began the arduous journey to the front, which for the 60th, lay in Belgium. James’ first taste of life in the trenches came at the end of March when the battalion moved into the front line east of Ypres at Sanctuary Wood.
James spent the entire summer of 1916 based in Flanders, during which time the battalion was involved in actions at Mount Sorrel (June) and Hill 60 (August.) On 20 June he was promoted to sergeant and at the start of September moved with his unit to the Somme where they took part in attacks against Zollern Graben trench, northeast of Mouquet Farm, on the 16th.
On 30 September, while on reconnaissance near the town of Albert, James was shot in his left thumb causing it to fracture. Over the next three days the wound turned septic, and he was consequently sent to the Casualty Clearing Station for treatment. James had scored what the British would refer to as a ‘Blighty’, and following assessment at the 3rd General Hospital in Boulogne he was sent back to the UK and admitted on 7 October to the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. Two months later he was discharged and transferred to the Canadian Red Cross Convalescent Hospital in Bushey Park and from where he was sent back to duty on 11 January 1917.
Following a brief stay at the Canadian Casualty Assembly Center at Hastings James was struck off strength of the 60th Battalion and transferred to the 2nd Reserve Battalion at the Canadian training camp in East Sandling, Kent. During the next six months, he passed classes of instruction in basic fitness and physical training at Shorncliffe and Aldershot and was posted to Witley Military Camp in Surrey on 9 February 1918. Upon arrival, he was taken on strength of the 8th Reserve Battalion and appointed the rank of acting company sergeant major (WO2.)
Following the Armistice in November 1918, James was sent to the camp at Kinmel Park in North Wales. He arrived on 4 April 1919 – a month after two days of riots in the Canadian sector of the military complex caused by delays in repatriation. James eventually embarked in Glasgow for Canada aboard the SS Cassandra on 2 May and was immediately demobilised from service on arrival in Montreal twelve days later and within a month awarded the meritorious service medal for given conduct.
After the war, James worked as an accountant and married Jane Campbell Bennet in Montreal on 2 June 1920, with two daughters born of the marriage in 1921 and 1924 respectively. He became intimately connected with Canadian Legion, holding at different times the posts of president of the railway Veteran’s Branch, vice-president of the Provincial Command, and chairman of the Montreal District Council. He was also Past Grand Master of Lodge 21, of the International Order of Oddfellows.
James died at the Queen Mary Veterans’ Hospital, Montreal on 30 January 1948 and was buried in the Mount Royal Cemetery.