Witness to War: Tuesday Jan 1, 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:

Tuesday Jan 1, 1918: New years day – went in afternoon and saw Mike Hubbard[1]. Olly Lane and McScimmings[2] also saw Cap Laws.

[1] Hubbard, Michael Parnell. Born 20 January 1887, Montreal, PQ. Enlisted 3 July 1915, Montreal, PQ. KIA 30 June 1918, Ligny-St. Flochel British Cemetery, Averdoingt.

[2] McSkimmings, Charles. Born 17 March 1888, Carlisle, England. Enlisted 12 January 1914, London, ON.

Author’s note in 1954: On December 10th, following C.O.’s inspection, we went to Lens Sector by train and marched to Lievin. As we were late in starting, and were supposed to reach the line to relieve the 8th Battalion at a certain time, we had to walk very fast in not too nice country – a very tough march and glad when our goal was reached. These we found were dirty cellars under the house, but not too bad. Here I met an old school friend whom I had not seen since boarding school some 11 years before. This was a fairly quiet sector and cellars were really comfortable, if dirty.

            Had a trip up the line from here with my Captain, and another day guided a new officer up to his company. After a few days, we moved into another cellar in another part of the town. These cellars are really something. British and French, as well as Canadian troops, here in the course of years cut tunnels from one cellar to the other and under the streets, so that one could travel almost all over the city and not come to the surface. You could come out on the streets and hardly see a soldier but you knew that thousands were underground.

We finally did not have to go right up to the front line, and on Dec. 18th, we went to Souchez Huts, where we received a big consignment of Xmas parcels, and had some good food, and lots of smokes of all kinds. After a few quiet days we marched back to Chateau de la Haie, [where we slept in] in Huts [that were] not bad. The Christmas season was now in full swing, and while the countryside, with its ruined towns and villages was anything but [festive], we managed to get some of the Xmas spirit and spirits.

            Christmas Day was quite a day for me as I was mentioned in the daily order sheet, and [had] my name read on parade for having been awarded the Military Medal at Passchendaele. My company commander was very pleased and congratulated me most heartily. While we visited several old friends in the Heavy Artillery Camp at Villers aux Bois, we had quite a party of some 8 or 10 old town boys and quite a time at an estaminet, which our friends (Mike Hubbard, McScimmings) called the Club – some club.

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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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