John Brown Wishart was born 22 May 1889 on Wallace Street in Rutherglen, Lanarkshire. He was the son of John Wishart, a steel smelter from Carstairs, and Margaret Brown. In the 1891 census he was living with his family at 16 Bankhead Place in Rutherglen and at 1 McAlpine Place ten years later when he was at school. In 1911 John was working as a grocer’s assistant and just over four years later in 1915, whilst still living at McAlpine Place, he enlisted on 26th August in Glasgow and joined the 9th Battalion Highland Light Infantry (Private No. 4625).
John was embodied for service (Territorial Force) on 26 August and remained in the UK until 18 July 1916 when he embarked at Folkestone for Boulogne (arriving the same day). He arrived at the 21st Infantry Base Depot at Etaples (where the majority of ‘I.B.D.’s’ were based) on 19 July, 1916 and left for 5th Ent. (probably training or depot) Battalion nine days later on the 28th – arriving on the 30th. By 4th August John was in the field and on 20th October was promoted to Acting L/Corporal. Shortly before Christmas on 16th December he was sent to hospital in Rouen suffering from Trench Foot, and was transferred back to the UK on the 20th where he remained for the next six months.
On 12 June 1917 John embarked at Folkestone for the second time and arrived in Boulogne the same day. Private J Wishart arrived at the 32nd Infantry Base Depot at Etaples on 13th June and was back in the field less than a month later on 7th July. He was soon appointed the rank of Acting Corporal with the 9th Battalion Highland Light Infantry and on the 17th September was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the same regiment. John returned home on two weeks furlough between 19 March and 3 April 1918 and on the 14 August he was promoted to Corporal. October 1918 was to prove an eventful month for John and his actions on the 23 October 1918 were enough to merit him with a Distinguished Conduct Medal. The London Gazette of 28 November 1919 and The Scotsman (9 December 1919) reported that:
331780 Cpl. J. B. Wishart, 2nd Bn., H.L.I. (Glasgow). During the operations just north of Vertain on 23rd October, 1918, he displayed magnificent courage and dash. On crossing the River Harpies, he saw an enemy post ahead doing much damage. He rushed single-handed through our barrage, killing one and capturing the remainder of the garrison. Later, when his section was held up by an enemy machine-gun post, he left his section to draw the enemy's fire and try and snipe them while he in dead ground crawled up to their flank. He rushed them with bayonet and bomb by himself, capturing eighteen prisoners, one heavy and one light machine gun.
Shortly after John’s valiant actions, he was appointed the rank of paid Acting Sergeant on 9th November, which was subsequently confirmed in the rank of Sergeant just under a month later on 7th December, 1918. John was disembodied from service on 1 May 1919 in Hamilton, Scotland.
Less than a year after leaving the military, and whilst he was working as a grocer’s salesman in Carluke, John married Rose Kenna – a telephonist, on 7 April 1920 at 49 Cathcart Street in Rutherglen. John eventually became the manager of the local cooperative store, he was very quiet and self effacing, and never talked about his war time experiences. During WWII he served with the Home Guard (‘Dad’s Army’.)
John died on 2 April 1951 in Corby, Northamptonshire. At the time he had been living at 71 Carlton Park, East Carlton.
With Kind Permission © Scott Alexander Wishart, 2013.
Scott Wishart and ‘Forgotten Lives :: The Wishart Surname in the Great War’