Witness to War: Tuesday June 26, 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:

Tuesday June 26, 1917: Just wrote the above as an aerial battle is going on its some sport. We leave for the support tonight This is an awful looking country town ravaged by shells. Came up to the support and got some mail. 8 letters gee but it was great went to sleep with a happy heart and a lonesome one both at once.

Author’s note in 1954: During our sojourn in Burbune, the gang from the old “Home Town,” which had consisted of some 30 men, had now dwindled to about a dozen. As time went on, we became closer in our comradeship, which vindicates the old adage that “misery likes company,” and for us boys, all of us having led a happy carefree life in Canada, we found it generally pretty hard. Many were the farce lovers when we got together in [?], limit(?) or better when we passed our time in reminiscing about the “Barg”(?) — our fishing and hunting trips, hockey and baseball games, etc., and speculated a little — not much though about those able to come, who at least in our estimation, had refused and got out of it. The general final conclusion we all agreed was that after all, we were glad we came and happy that we came before conscription. Somehow this thought made us feel good.

Men of the 14th RMR. Private Duval (presumed), front row, second from right.

Eventually, just short of 3 months after leaving Canada, 160 of us were put on buses and sent up to join the 14th Battalion, [which] at that time [was] stationed in “Winnipeg Huts” of Mount St. Eloi, having just returned from a tour on Vimy Ridge. Our draft was posted, and practically all of “our gang” was assigned to #2 Company. Here, we found out what was near the “real” front.

Next morning, I was picked for guard duty (24 Hours). Found this pretty tough. The battalion was paid off and as often occurred, several boys drank too much with consequent trouble in the Guard Room. One man was brought in with a “fighting job,” and had to be severely manhandled before he was subdued. In the scuffle he got his teeth into my left hand and had to be treated rather roughly to make him let go. Fortunately, no serious trouble resulted from the fray.

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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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