Witness to War: Monday, Oct 28, 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, Oct 28, 1918: Worked all day and wrote my Honey No 139 but it seems hard to write a decent letter. Rec’d pr of long boots from Clare Note – Friday Oct 25 all MM’s pinned on by O.C..

Author’s note in 1954: [On] October 5th, went back to rear when I was ordered back to take over temporarily the job of pay clerk, while the regular clerk went on leave. [We] moved to a village near Vis-en-Artois, but shortly after, we moved back to our starting place. [I] met Thebodeau here, [and] also one of the Grand Mere boys (Joe Gill). Nothing much doing [here]; [my] only work was getting acquainted with the pay Sgt’s job. McIsaacs left to go on his leave in Paris, [and I] also saw Hump Cobb off to Blighty.

Rain has continued for last two days (October 12 and 13, 1918). [I] spent [the] afternoon looking for [the] 15th Battalion. [The] next day, Capt. Harvey, [the] Paymaster came from 15th (with which he is attached), and men of No 1 Co. were paid. [The] next day, the paying job was completed.

After several days, we marched to Erchin (fine village and not damaged) going fine chasing the Hun back. Marched through Somain, and they greeted us with much enthusiasm, loading us with flowers, women kissing the boys as we passed along the streets. In fact, they were frantic with joy at their relief after four years of bondage. As I was now attached to transport and stores, I lived in the rear and messed with transport stores and details Sgts, [which was] very pleasant. From Somain, [we] went to Wallers, and had a fine bedroom in [a] private home, [and] then [the] next day, moved back to Somain, as the move was an error. On the route, we met the 5th CMR [Canadian Mounted Rifles] and saw Bob Morrow.

Back at our old billets, Joe Gill turned up, and we are rooming together. [There is] much rain. Had a few days of little work, [but] then pay day coming up made lots of work for one day. This work of pay gave me plenty of work for a few days.

On Friday, October 25th, I experienced [some] pleasant incidents. Four of us – and all privates – were the recipients of decoration ribbons. Three of us were decorated with MM [Military Medal], and the other with a DCM [Distinguished Conduct Medal] at the hands of Col. Dick Worral. This ceremonial parade took place at Fenain, just a few miles from Somain. It was quite thrilling to be one of the four. We four were called from the Ranks, and stood at attention while the Col. pinned the ribbons on our breasts. After a handshake, we stood at the side of the line of march, and the Battalion fixed bayonets, and with the Col at the head, saluted us four. [It was] a very impressive – went to the four of us.

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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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