Witness to War: Monday, August 5, 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:

Monday, August 5, 1918: Nothing much doing Very tired today and lonely for my little girlie. We expect to go into action within next few days Germans retiring all along the line we are told. Moving again tonight – to where? by buses – to near Amiens. Got off buses August 6 hard marching to Boves a hard march where we slept and rested till about 10pm when we got into Battle equipment and marched to trenches all day and night. Material of war tanks guns etc went thro’ in a steady stream What a wonderful organization it No order shouted yet everything moves along without a hitch.

Author’s note in 1954: On June 30, we moved a few miles to Trevillers, still in the same area. At this time, we adopted a kitten, which we carted with us, generally in our haversacks. July 1st, Dominion Day, we went to Tinques, [which was] not far, for the Corps sports. Most of the Canadian Army being out of the line at this time, it was a fine celebration with grand stands, etc. While in the area, the Canadians were visited by Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada. The weather at this time was very hot. Highland sports were held here, and as we were in a Highland Brigade – the 3 Kiltie Battalions were much interested (we were not in kilts).

            From Tinques, we marched to Anzin St. Aubin, [which was] about 15 miles, [so] not too bad. Our time here was taken up by working parties (usually [at] night digging trenches), parades, and inspections as usual. We [then] headed back into the line (supports). I took over the job of Co[mpany] Clerk, and had a fair living place in an old German deep dug-out. We experienced some bombardment at this time, [but it was] rather sporadic most of [the] time.

            [We] moved to the Arras area, and later entrained on narrow gauge RR [railroad] to Fosseux, a very pretty village in a wood. [Here], the same drills, working parties, parades, inspections, etc., continued until August 3, when we packed up and boarded buses to Frevent, where we entrained and came to Belloy, a nice little village in the Valley of the Somme. We expected to go in the firing line within a few days. We were told Germans are retiring all along the line. From here, we took busses to Bases near Amiens.

            From Bases, we rested a short time, then got into battle equipment and marched to our battle station in the trenches. It was really terrific to be in the stream of traffic going up to the line; infantry, artillery, tanks, trucks, etc., in what seemed a never-ending stream. [One was] impressed not only [by] the magnitude of the movement, but also the superb organization behind [it all]. And by the way, every detail had been so well planned that all this movement of men and materiel went on without a hitch.

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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