|Date of Birth||April 23, 1898|
|Place of Birth||Souris, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Norman Wismer, father, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Brick Maker|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||December 15, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||16|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Decorations and Medals||Distinguished Conduct Medal|
|Date of Death||April 19, 1975|
|Age at Death||77|
|Buried At||Lake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario|
Ira Franklin (Pat) Wismer was born on 23 April 1898 in the RM of Glenwood (Souris), Manitoba. His father Norman Wismer and mother Deborah Mezina Clark were from Warwick Township, Lambton, Ontario. At some point after their marriage the couple headed west, first found in Treherne, RM of Norfolk, in Manitoba followed by a few years in the RM of Glenwood (Souris), back to Treherne, and then eventually settling in Portage la Prairie where Norman found work as a teamster. Children born to the family were Margaret Jane (abt 1890-1967), Russell Douglas (1894-1971), twins Ethel Levina (1895) and Etta Louisa (1895-1978), Ira, Lillian Emma (1899-1986), Norman Cecil (1908-1985), and Grace Vivian (1911-1998).
Giving a false birth date to hide that fact that he was only 16 years of age, Pat answered the call to duty very early in the war, signing his attestation papers in Winnipeg on 15 December 1914. With occupation given as brick layer, he was blue-eyed and fair-haired. The 32nd Battalion had been organized in November of 1914, with recruitment in Saskatoon, Brandon, Moosomin, Portage la Prairie, Weyburn, Lloydminster, Moose Jaw, and Roblin and mobilization at Winnipeg. As a Private in A Company of the 32nd Battalion, Pat embarked from Halifax on 23 February 1915, arriving in England on the 7th of March.
Once in England the 32nd Battalion was absorbed into the 32nd Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe as were the 68th, 94th, 152nd and 195th Battalions. The 32nd Reserve Battalion was used mainly to reinforce the 5th, 28th, and 52nd Battalions in France as well as other small drafts to the Forestry Corps, Engineers, Machine Gun Corps and other battalions.
Pat embarked for France 2 May 1915 and transferred to the 2nd Battalion on the 5th. The 2nd Battalion (Eastern Ontario Regiment) had organized at Valcartier in Quebec before leaving the Gaspe Basin on 3 October 1914 as part of a convoy of at least 30 other ships. After training in England it left for France in mid February of 1915. Their first battle was the 2nd Battle of Ypres in April of 1915. Over the course of the war the 2nd Battalion also fought at the battles of Ypres, St Julien, Festubert, Mount Sorrel, Pozieres, Vimy, Arleux, Hill 70, Passchendaele, Amiens, and Canal du Nord.
Pat was granted a seven day leave to France at the end of May 1916 only to return to take part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel under horrendous conditions. The trenches were in a deplorable state due to the continual shelling/bombardment by the Germans compounded by the nonstop rainfall, both very heavy at times. From the war diaries of the 2nd Battalion 02 June-07 1916: ‘German artillery very active’, ‘our line heavily shelled’, ‘trenches are a deep mess no chance to drain them’, ‘trenches in very bad shape’, ‘men suffering from exposure’, ‘casualties heavy’. In four days, June 4-7, the battalion suffered 122 casualties. On June 7th Pat was admitted to No 2 Canadian Field Ambulance suffering from shell shock; the intensity of the bombardment and fighting had taken its toll. Usual symptoms of shell shock included headache, dizziness, tremor, tinnitus, amnesia, and hypersensitivity to noise. On June 22nd Pat was invalided to England to the Graylingwell Military Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex followed by a transfer to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Woodcote Park, Epsom. A telegram was sent to Pat’s father back in Portage la Prairie two days after his arrival in England. In August of 1916, Pat returned to the 2nd Battalion in France.
From May 3rd to 8th of 1917 the 2nd Battalion took part in the attack on Fresnoy, capturing the village itself on the 3rd. In the war diaries for the 2nd Battalion for the 11th of May, it stated that there were 12 recommendations for the Distinguished Conduct medal as a result of the attack. It is the second highest award for gallantry in action, after the Victoria Cross, for all military ranks below commissioned officers. Pat was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal on May 26th. From the Canadian Military Honours and Awards Citation card for Private Ira Wismer: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Assisted by another man he succeeded in capturing an enemy machine gun which was causing us casualties. Later, he entered a dug-out and took three officers and four other ranks prisoners.’ The other fellow with Pat was Private James Frederick Harrison who had been farming in the Portage la Prairie area when he enlisted with the 61st Battalion in early 1916. Like Pat, once overseas he transferred to the 2nd Battalion. Also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Private James Frederick Harrison was killed in action at Passchendaele six months later, 6 November 1917. Pat also received another honour for his actions in the field that spring, sited in the 14 July 1917 supplement to the London Gazette for being awarded the Croix de Guerre Medal (France). The French Croix de Guerre was instituted on 8 April 1915 by the French Government to recognize acts of bravery in the face of the enemy specifically mentioned in despatches. Pat was awarded the Croix de Guerre on June 20th.
Earning a well deserved rest Pat was granted a ten day leave to Paris in late August of 1917. Beginning on 8 August 1918, the 2nd Battalion was involved in the Battle of Amiens, the opening phase of the Allied offensive later known as the 100 Days Offensive that ultimately led to the end of the First World War. In the vicinity of Caix, on 11 August 1918 Pat suffered a gunshot wound to the arm and was admitted to the 9th General Hospital in Rouen. He was invalided to England two days later to the Queen Mary’s Military Hospital in Whalley, Lancaster where he was to stay until mid September. It was likely here that he met his bride to be, Eveline O’Keeffe of Blackburn, a city only 11 kilometres southwest of Whalley.
Upon his discharge Pat was to spend another ten days at the Woodcote Park Military Convalescent Hospital in Epsom before proceeding to the 6th Reserve Battalion at Seaford. In November of 1918 he attended the 72nd Course of Instruction at the Canadian School of Machine Guns in London and qualified as a 1st Class Instructor.
On 18 January 1919 Private Ira Wismer embarked for Canada on the Aquitania; his war service had come to an end. However a new life was beginning for Pat as Eveline (Ivy), oldest daughter of Patrick and Agnes O’Keeffe of Blackburn, arrived in Canada on April 5th aboard the Melita. The couple were married on 10 April 1919 in Portage la Prairie.
Pat and Ivy were found on the 1921 census as living in Portage la Prairie and had given birth to a daughter, Eveline. They later gave birth to a second daughter, Margaret (Peggy). Pat was to go on to find his calling as a brewmaster, enumerated as such on the 1935 Voters List in St Catharines, Ontario and the 1940 list for Rosedale in Toronto. In January of 1948 the Wismer family moved to Kenora, Ontario as Pat had bought the Bentz Brewery, renaming it as the Lake of the Woods Brewery. Although he sold it in 1952, he remained as brewmaster until the company closed its doors in 1954. In his daughter Peggy’s words, Pat felt he had found paradise on Lake of the Woods, and although he could have moved to many cities as brewmaster, he chose to remain in Kenora, opening a stationary and novelty shop aptly called Pats. For a while he summered as much as he could in an old cabin on the Martin property at Yellow Girl on Lake of the Woods and later bought a cabin on nearby Redcliff Bay that became his passion.
On 9 November 1971 Ivy died in Kenora. She is interred in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. The 1972 Voters List found Pat, retired, residing on Coney Island, a large island on Lake of the Woods located at Kenora. On 1 June 1974 Pat married Caroline Lucy (née Tilbey) Wismer, widow of his brother Russell. Russell had enlisted at Valcartier in September of 1914, heading overseas with the 8th Battalion. He was awarded the Military Medal on 10 October 1918. On 11 March 1919 in the Eton District of Buckinghamshire, Russell married Caroline Tilbey, daughter of James and Emma Tilbey. Caroline had been born in Horton, Berkshire but by the 1911 England census the family had moved to Colnbrook, Eton, Buckinghamshire. Russell died in 1971 in Brandon, Manitoba.
Ira Franklin (Pat) Wismer died at his summer residence on Coney Island on 19 April 1975. He is interred beside Ivy in the Lake of the Woods Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Caroline, daughter Eveline (Neil) Morris of Toronto and daughter Peggy (Kevin) O’Flaherty of Cobalt, Ontario, twelve grandchildren and one great grand child. Also surviving were his brother Norman and sisters Lily, Grace, and Etta. Pat had served on the municipal council in Kenora for two years, was a member of the Kenora Rotary Club, the United Travellers Association, the Kenora Branch of the Canadian Legion, the Retired Men’s Association of Keewatin, and the Kenora Curling Club. During WW2 he served with the Ontario Volunteer Constabulary as Major. By all accounts he was well thought of within the community.
Pat’s father Norman had enlisted in October of 1915 in Portage la Prairie, falsifying his age to do so. He went overseas with the 45th Battalion, embarking from Canada aboard the Lapland on 1 April 1916. He returned to Canada in October of 1918. Norman died in Portage la Prairie in 1931 followed by his wife, Pat’s mother, Deborah in 1951. They are interred in the Hillside Cemetery, Portage la Prairie.
by Judy Stockham
Photographs of Pat and Ivy and Pat’s father Norman courtesy of the Wismer/O’Flaherty families.