Wisharts Who Served in the Great War (1914 – 1919)

In 2010 Scott Wishart began an ongoing project to identify, research and record biographical details of men and women bearing his surname who served in uniform during the Great War. The project was originally hosted on the website wishart1418.org and was part of the First World War Centenary Partnership as well as being recorded and catalogued by the British Museum’s First World War collection.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 2023 – All the biographies previously posted on wishart1418.org are currently being updated and transferred to this site.

To date, Scott has identified 563 Wisharts from the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and United States who served in uniform overseas and on the home front between 1914 and 1919. Some were pre-war reservists and found themselves quickly mobilised for active service during the summer of 1914, whilst others were army regulars stationed overseas in countries such as India, and subsequently drafted back to Europe and posted to the Western Front.

A great many Wisharts answered Kitchener’s call for volunteers and signed up following the outbreak of war. Although a few would see action in France by the year’s end, the majority of the ‘New Army’ Wisharts didn’t cross the English Channel until 1915, with a number sailing further afield to the Dardanelles, Balkans, Mesopotamia, Egypt and East Africa.

Wisharts were involved in a variety of roles ranging from clerical workers, labourers, and nurses to front-line infantry rank and officer duties. Being a predominantly Scottish surname, many were attached to Scottish regiments; however, there were also strong contingents from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – with several men also coming from South Africa and Tasmania. The number of American Wisharts who are known to have served overseas on the Western Front is currently 23, although many others filled in draft registration cards. Not all would have seen active service and of those who did, the majority were stationed in the USA.

Wisharts were not only confined to the land. Many served with the Royal Navy, and several eventually joined the Royal Flying Corps from the army (latterly the RAF). Of those that saw front-line action, a number distinguished themselves in the field and were subsequently merited for their actions; some even had their heroic deeds reported widely in the press, yet others weren’t so fortunate. One Wishart, despite proving himself in the trenches and earning an unblemished service record, found himself court-martialled and executed at dawn for desertion.

By and large, the large majority of serving Wisharts came from very humble and often impoverished backgrounds, and it was likely that engaging in military service overseas would have been the first time they had left the immediate area in which they lived. Of all the men and women who were sent to foreign countries, eighty-two did not return.

The project was conceived and maintained by Scott Wishart, whose interest in the First World War started in 1988 when he saw a production of R. C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End at the Whitehall Theatre in London, and has since become fascinated by the lives of ordinary people who were plucked from everyday life and thrust into the extremes of human experience, often with courage and tenacity that they might never have realised had they stayed at home. It seeks to recognise and honour those who, sometimes at the expense of their own lives, have fought for their beliefs and, of course, their friends, family, and countrymen.

The project is ongoing and has been made possible with the assistance of the late Lt. Col Jack Wishart and all the Wisharts from around the world who have submitted their own family stories, photographs and other documents.