Witness to War: Wednesday Feb 6, 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:

Wednesday Feb 6, 1918: Still here very tired Not getting much sleep Foster one of the runners wounded in leg a couple of men killed everything else very quiet will be good to get out.

AUTHOR’S NOTE IN 1954Our rest period finally came to an end, and we marched to Houdain, where we were informed that the rest would continue here for a short time – the time here was spent quietly without much excitement. The most exciting bit of fun occurred when one of the boys discovered a shed full of barrels of wine, and we made several late night excursions and got away with a few pails of red wine.

A few days of more or less haphazard drill was spent here, and then we marched to “Bully-Grenay”, where my partner (who had returned from hospital) and I had a good room to ourselves. As always, I found that being able to speak French fluently was a great help, and I generally was able to get a room in one of the citizen’s houses for a small amount, and very often without pay as they were so happy to have us. While here, attended service with an RC friend in a quaint little church, most interesting, the 24th Battalion marched through, saw a number of old friends from home and Montreal training days.

We were now at the end of January, and the weather was remarkably mild and pleasant, in fact just about like the latter part of April in Quebec. This fine weather continued and on the 31st we left for the front line, and arrived at the Chalk Pit in front of Loos, and were greeted again by the usual Minnie Wafers (Trench Mortars), pine apples, etc. Our home for the present was an old German dug out some 200 yards from their present line. Although no big action of any kind took place, the bombardment was almost continual although comparatively light, and a few casualties were sustained. A pleasant break was the arrival of mail, and I was fortunate enough to receive a couple of parcels from Canada, which helped to while away the time.

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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