Witness to War: Saturday, Dec 13th, 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:

Saturday, Dec 13th, 1918: Marched across the Rhine crossing at Cologne across the city and bridge with fixed Bayonets about 10am. Gave General McDonnell the salute at the eastern end of the Bridge Pouring rain all the way but had comfortable Billet in fine house at Hoffnungsthal.

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.

From the War Diary of the 14th Battalion (RMR):

Dec 13 th COLOGNE, the famous RHINE Bridgehead and great inland port, was today, for the first time in its long proud history entered by a column of British troops. It was a great moment for every soldier who was privileged to take part in that triumphal entry.

The First Canadian Division entered the city form the South and passed over the “New Bridge” to take up its portion of the bridgehead to be held on the East bank of the Rhine.

The Royal Montreal Regiment led the Division, and therefore had the honour of being the first British Battalion to pass through the city of COLOGNE and to the east bank of the RHINE, so long the boasted impregnable western defence of Germany, thus demonstrating more clearly than possible by any other means the collapse of that great military power.

The Battalion paraded at 8:05 a.m. and marched round the western part of the city to the starting point. The weather was very bad, heavy rain falling throughout the day. The Divisional Commander and mounted escort led the way, followed by the Brigade Commander and staff, followed in its turn by the Royal Montreal Regiment with fixed bayonets.

The German people were silent when our troops passed. There were no large crowds on the streets, but from every window they looked down upon the column. It would seem as though they were trying to turn as good a face as possible upon an event that must be very bitter to them.

The Regiment passed under the shadow of the Great Cathedral and across the bridge at 9:25 a.m. Every Officer and man seemed to appreciate the significance of the great event in which they were taking part, and marched in a manner befitting the occasion. It was a great day in the History of the Regiment and a glorious memory to all who crossed the famous river.

The Divisional Commander tool the salute at the Eastern side of the Bridge.

After crossing the Rhine the Battalion passed through the town of DEUTZ and unfixed bayonets, then on through the villages of OSTHEIM and HEUMAR to RATH, where a halt for an hour was made for lunch and a rum ration issued. Resuming the march and passing through ROSRATH, the Battalion billeted at VOLBERG at 3:45 p.m. after a march of 25 kilometres.

Being the Advance of the Brigade group, No. 4 Company was detached for Outpost duty and touch effected with the 29th , (Imperial) Division on our left and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade on our right.

Announcement was made in Corps Orders that the following decorations were awarded to the undernoted Officers and Other ranks for gallantry at the Canal du Nord Operation:

Distinguished Service Order. Major C.B. Price, D.C.M.

Bar to Distinguished Conduct Medal. No 841293, Sgt. H. Weeks, D.C.M.

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