Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 27, 1887
Place of BirthAllumette Island, Quebec
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinLea Lemieux (sister), Blezard Valley, Ontario
Trade / CallingLabourer
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number3108073
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion259th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia)
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedConscripted
Place of EnlistmentSudbury, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentHornepayne, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 13, 1918
Age at Enlistment31
Theatre of ServiceSiberia
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMarch 26, 1946
Age at Death59
Buried AtLake of the Woods Cemetery, Kenora, Ontario
PlotRoman Catholic B - 6 - 30

Bissette, Ernest

Rifleman Ernest Bissette was called up in September 1918, at age 31. He served for nine months in Canada and Siberia, returning home in June 1919.

Ernest Bissette (Bessette) was the son of Narcisse Bessette and Rosina St. Denis of Chapeau, Allumettes Island, Quebec. Narcisse and Rosina were married in 1870 and over the next 18 years they had nine children: Emma, Laure, Lea, Hector, Mabel, Eveline, Cecilia, Ernest and Joseph.  Ernest, the second youngest, was born on 27 January 1887 and baptized as Tanciède Jules Ernest. In census records Narcisse was listed as a school teacher in 1871 and a bailiff in 1881. He died in August 1890 when Ernest was three years old. The following year when the census was taken Rosina was working as a grocer in Chapeau and all nine children were still at home. The two oldest girls, Emma and Laure, were school teachers and Lea later became a teacher too. In the early 1900s Ernest moved to the Sudbury area in Ontario and he found work there on farms and as a general labourer.

Conscription started in Canada in 1917 and single men age 20 to 34 were required to register by November. Ernest reported in Sudbury and his medical exam on 3 December found him fit for overseas service. He wasn’t called up until nine months later, on 13 September 1918. He was working as a farm labourer at the time and he listed his next of kin as his sister Lea (Mrs. Joseph Achille Lemieux) of Blezard Valley, a small community on the outskirts of Sudbury. Ernest was assigned to the 1st Depot Battalion, 2nd Central Ontario Regiment, which was based in Hamilton, and he trained with them at Niagara Camp for a few weeks.

The Armistice was signed in November 1918, ending hostilities on the Western Front, but Canadian troops were still needed for operations in Siberia and north Russia. Plans were already in place to assemble an international force at Vladivostok in Siberia. The goals included support and training for anti-Bolshevik forces and protecting stockpiles of Russian weapons and supplies to keep them from falling into the hands of the Bolsheviks. The Canadian Expeditionary Force (Siberia) was made up of two infantry battalions, the 259th and 260th, as well as artillery, cavalry, machine gun and support units, for a total of just over 4,000 men.

The 259th Battalion (Canadian Rifles) was organized in British Columbia, with recruits coming mainly from Ontario and Quebec. Ernest was transferred to the 259th on 31 October 1918 and he left for Siberia two months later. They embarked from Vancouver on 22 December on the SS Teesta and arrived at Vladivostok on 12 January 1919. The Canadian units were not involved in any combat operations there but they had casualties from accidents, illness and disease.

Early in February Ernest became ill with bronchitis and he spent a few days recovering at No. 11 Stationary Hospital in Vladivostok. He served in Siberia for four months, part of that time on guard duty. In March 1919 it was decided to disband the Siberian Expeditionary Force and send the troops home over the next few months. Ernest embarked with his unit on 19 May on the Empress of Russia and arrived in Vancouver on 29 May. He was discharged on 11 June in Toronto with his intended residence listed as Blezard Valley, where his sister Lea lived.

Over the next ten years Ernest worked at a variety of jobs in the Sudbury area. He was employed in local woolen mills, at lumber camps and on farms and he spent a season as a fire ranger. During the early years of the Depression he lived at a relief camp in Butler, Ontario and from there he moved west to Kenora. He worked for the Keewatin Lumber Company for several months and spent a few winters at bush camps cutting wood. By December 1938 he was suffering from a heart condition and bronchitis and he moved into Derouard’s Boarding House on Third Street South in Kenora. He couldn’t do heavy work anymore, due to ill health, but he helped out around the boarding house, doing odd jobs and working in the kitchen, and he was able to get a veteran’s disability allowance. Ernest was admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital on 3 January 1946 and he passed away there on 26 March, at age 59. He is buried in the Roman Catholic section of Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

By Becky Johnson

Ernest’s grave marker was installed in Lake of the Woods Cemetery in 2018 by the Last Post Fund.

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