Witness to War: Friday July 20, 1917

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 July 20, 1917: Wrote to home. Guard today so was a pretty sure as I had planned to get supper down town [?] Sam Windle In evening watched France Co. bombardment a magnificent but awful sight. Saw some liquid fire going over. Poor chaps who were in that must have suffered.

Author’s note in 1954:The tour of duty mostly in reserve and close support with some front line duty, continued for several weeks along the same (Vimy) front. The weather at this time was not too bad, but some rain made the trenches muddy and generally nasty. Strafing with field guns and small arms was frequent and the dull roar of the heavies never seemed silent. The depressing part was the continual hits [that] were scored on pals. Almost every day one met a friend who told of so and so being killed or wounded, and the almost invariable comment was, “well I hope he has a nice Blighty” – at times this seemed to be the dearest wish to get hit just bad enough to be sent to England (Blighty).

The aerial battles, which almost daily occurred overhead, were a real show and much enjoyed by the ground troops. At times, there were hundreds of planes in the air locked in combat. We were fascinated by zooming and circling, hoping to see a Fritz come down in flames, and the fear that it might be one of our boys.

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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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