Wishart, Thomas; Stoker; RN/RAN 8277

Tommy Wishart was born on 29 October 1882 at Partick, on the River Clyde near Glasgow in Scotland. His father worked as a boilermaker in the famous shipyards nearby, so it was hardly surprising when young Tommy joined the RN in January 1903, aged 20. He actually gave his age as only 18 because, as he was only five feet two and a half inches tall, he wished to give the impression that he still had time to grow. But Wishart was physically very strong, and a good worker. By 1906 he was a stoker, class I.

He transferred to submarines, where his size was an asset. He served first in A class submarines, and in 1913 volunteered to join the RAN and new AE2 submarine on loan from the RN for a period of three years.

As a prisoner of war, Wishart was taken first to Afion Kara Hissar, where he found work as an orderly for air force officers. At the end of 1915, he was transferred with most of the AE2 crew to the 1st Division camp at Belemedik, where he was injured by a falling log. The accident placed Wishart at great risk, as the Turks were notorious for their callous treatment of any prisoner who could not work. According to Corporal George Kerr’s diary, on at least two occasions the fiery Wishart became incensed with his Turkish guards and punched them. On the second occasion he knocked the guard down. He was punished severely, beaten and placed in vermin-infested solitary confinement on starvation rations.

Following the second incident, and too weak to work, Wishart was shipped with a large number of other prisoners back to Afion Kara Hissar. With him were at least four of his AE2 shipmates who had suffered similar difficulties: Nichols, Wilson, Churcher and Harding. It was a move that almost certainly saved Wishart’s life, for from Afion Kara Hissar he was selected for transfer to the more humane San Stefano camp.

Wishart returned to London by the end of 1918, travelling via Alexandria in Egypt, and rejoined his wife Annie in Belfast. He returned to the RN in 1921, serving at sea again until 1926, and working in merchant ships until 1935. He then obtained a post with the Belfast Corporation dealing with local shipping, and stayed there until the outbreak of World War II, during which he served at HMS Caroline in Belfast. In October 1939 Wishart met his respected AE2 Captain Stoker once again. Stoker was serving as chief of staff to Admiral King, the Fleet Flag Officer in Belfast. The two old submariners worked together again for the first time since the Dardanelles.

Wishart’s son, Harry Wishart, recalls his father as a small strong stubborn man with a strong work ethic. He was a committed Christian, but also a severe disciplinarian with his five children. Tommy Wishart died in Belfast on 20 February 1952, aged 69.