FINAL POST – Witness to War: Sunday, Apr 20 – 1919

Private Raymond Duval, MM, was a soldier of the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment) CEF who served overseas during the last two years of the First World War. He participated in some of the fiercest fighting seen by Canadians during the war and was decorated for bravery at Passchendaele. Determined to preserve his memories of the First World War, he maintained a daily record of his experiences. Here is what he wrote precisely 100 years ago today:

Sunday, Apr 20 – 1919: Easter Sunday. Arrived Montreal by train 2:30pm. Detrained started march in full battle regalia. 3pm – at [?] station. Saw my Clare. Philip John – Reg [?] by Champ de Mars to Peel St. Barracks hand in rifle and went on to Aunt Frank’s.

The RMR Foundation thanks Natalie Dyck for generously sharing her publication of “The Diary and Memoir of Private Raymond Duval” in order for us to be able to share his story with you 100 years on. You can learn more about Private Duval here.


Batman: A soldier-servant to a commissioned officer.

Blighty: English slang term for Britain; also used to describe wounds serious enough to be sent home.

Big Bertha: German super-heavy, long-range howitzer gun, named after Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, the wife of the owner of Krupp steel works, which manufactured the gun especially for the First World War. Famous as the guns used to bombard Paris in March and April of 1918.

Boche: Anything German. Taken from the French slang “tete de boche,” meaning a stubborn or obstinate person.

Bull Ring: Area at base camps where intensive “refresher” training was carried out. The Bull Ring at Etaples was famous for its severe discipline.

Bully: Bully beef, tinned corned beef used as a protein ration by the British Army.

Colonials: Soldiers of the French Army, usually African, but sometimes also used to describe Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders.

Coy Books: Refers to the Company (Coy) books, payroll, operational, or otherwise.

Dug-out: An underground shelter.

Estaminet: Bar/Café found in villages and towns, and run by civilians for the purposes of eating, drinking, and the general entertainment of off-duty soldiers.

Fritz: A nickname for Germans.

Funk hole: A small dug-out/shelter for one or two men in the side of a trench.

Great Coat: Long wool coats issued to soldiers for cold weather wear.

Huns: Germans.

Imperials: British soldiers of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force).

I.O.O.F. (International Order of Odd Fellows): An altruistic fraternal organization derived from the English Oddfellows, with lodges throughout North America.

Jake: Trench slang meaning fine or alright.

Minnie: German minnenwerfer, a type of trench morter.

Napooed: Finished, gone away. Corruption of the French “il n’y en a plus” (there is no more).

On the boards: The boards at the bottom of the trenches, tents, or huts.

Orangeman’s Day: An annual Protestant celebration on July 12th, originating in Ireland. Celebrated by members of the Orange Order or Orange Lodge, a Protestant fraternal organization.

Padre: A military chaplain who ministers to members of the military.

Paliasse: Straw mattresses issued to soldiers to sleep on.

Parapet: The side of the trench closest to the enemy.

PH Helmet: Gas masks issued by the British army that consisted of a hood worn over the head and face.

Pill-boxes: Structure made of reinforced concrete to enclose a machine gun nest.

Pineapples: Nickname given to a type of trench mortar for their resemblance to the fruit.

Puttees: Standard part of CEF uniform; long, narrow piece of fabric wrapped around the leg from ankle to knee to provide support and protection.

Lorry: Large motor vehicle similar in design to a pick-up truck, used for transport of soldiers and goods.

Runner: Responsible for carrying messages to and from one area or commander to another, often through active battlefields. Generally worked in pairs.

Strafe: Machine-gunning/bombing by planes. Derived from German verb “strafen,” meaning to punish.

Tapes: Used to mark out start line or direction of an attack.

Tommy Cooker: A portable, compact, alcohol-fueled stove issued to British troops (“Tommies”).

Whiz-bangs: A high-speed shell whose sound arrived almost at the same time it exploded.

Share your thoughts