Witness to War: Friday Feb 22, 1918

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:

Friday Feb 22, 1918: Nothing doing today Weather still fine.

Author’s note in 1954:All of us suffered from lack of sleep, and in a few days the tired feeling became more pronounced, and the boys were generally looking forward to change of scenery. To our great relief, the 13th battalion, Black Watch, arrived on the 7th of February to take over our sector, and we moved back to the village of Loos, where we took up residence in cellars.

We stayed in Loos until the 13th of February, and the only incident worth noting was the capture of a few prisoners in minor actions. We now went back to Reserve and were billeted in the small town of Les Brebis. Our hearts were gladdened by more Canadian mail while here, among which I received another parcel. On February 16th, the Battalion was moved to Bully Grenay, and in our old billets. The weather continued fine and mild, and the time was spent in drill and training as usual. While here, I had the pleasure of meeting two old friends in a howitzer battery, located close by the town. Here, we were glad to have a bath, which we needed very badly as it was now several weeks since we had had more than a spoonful or two of water to spare for washing and shaving. While at the bath, met two more old friends from Western Canada whom I had not seen for many years. We were now quite a group from the Old Town, and we had a group picture taken in a rather queer photo studio. In fact, [it was] no studio as the photographer used a corner of the backyard for his picture taking, and [the] background consisted of a stone wall and what he had on the property; old chains, etc. The weather continued fine and our spare time from training went by most pleasantly.

On February 23rd, we received some Canadian mail and was happy to receive a large amount. Next day, the Battalion moved up to supports in Cite St. Pierre, on the Lille front. Just before leaving for the front, I received $20.00 in Canadian currency from my wife. On the 25th, we moved to the front line and I took over as company client while the regular one went on leave. This was a pleasant change from the trench runner, and the C.S.M. [Company Sergeant-Major] for whom I worked was a very fine chap, an original of the old 12th battalion. We had some pleasant hours together.

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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.

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