Duval Diary: Witnessing the War 100 years on

Duval Diary: Witnessing the War 100 years on

Westmount, Quebec – 10 March 2017: The RMR Foundation is working to keep alive the memory of those who served during the First World War and starting 0n 22 March 2017 we will begin publishing the daily diary of an eye-witness from the RMR: Private Raymond Duval, MM.

Duval enlisted in the summer of 1916 and eventually reached the front and was officially badged into the Regiment in June 1917. He kept a diary throughout his time in the war which he published it as a memoir in 1954.

In 2014 The Diary and Memoir of Private Raymond Duval was edited and compiled by Natalie A. Dyck, and she has graciously permitted the RMR Foundation to publish Duval’s entries online. Starting with his first entry on 22 March 1917, we will publish each entry online precisely 100 years after he originally wrote them.

Natalie writes an excellent introduction to our project:

Lest  we  forget.  It’s  a  term  we’re  all  familiar  with  every  November 11th,  which  compels  to recall the past sacrifices that make our present possible. But for Private Raymond Duval, it was  a  prescient  belief  that  drove  him  to  record  his  experiences  in the  First  World  War  as they happened. Sensing the significance of his current events one hundred years ago, he left behind a story that’s evocative of an entire era  and rouses us to remember and empathize with a generation lost long ago.

Like many men of his time, Duval was excited by the romance and magnitude of fighting for King  and  country  in  the  war  that  would  give  birth  to  the  modern world.  Born  in  Grand-Mere,  Quebec,  on  November 23rd,  1886,  he  enlisted  with  the  244th  Infantry  Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, on  August 10th, 1916. Like many battalions of the C.E.F., his was broken up and used as reinforcements for  those already in the field. Private Duval was assigned to the 23rd Reserve Battalion in England, before joining the 14th Battalion, Royal Montreal Regiment, in France. He served on the Western Front, witnessing the carnage and senseless human sacrifice at the  battles of Hill 70, Passchendaele, Arras, Amiens, Canal Du Nord, and Cambrai, until he was discharged on April 21st, 1919.

During  the  war,  he  maintained  a  daily  record  of  his  experiences  in  the  diary  provided  to him  by  the  army.  After  returning  to  Canada,  he  was  an  active  member  of  the  Grand-Mere community   and   the   Royal   Canadian   Legion,   and   wrote   several   articles   in   the   local newspaper.  With  the  intention  to  create  a  public  record  of  what  he called “the  brighter side” of combat duty, he again took pen to paper and wrote a memoir in January of 1954.

Despite its many horrors, Duval remembered the war fondly, telling his grandchildren that surrounded  by  the  constant  and  random  threat  of  death,  he had  never  felt more  alive.  His comrades   remained   lifetime   friends,   many   of   them   present   for   his   60th   wedding anniversary  to  his  beloved  wife,  Clare.  Raymond  Duval  died  at  the  age  of  96,  in  St.  Anne’s Veterans  Hospital  in  Quebec.  He  wished  to  share  his  belief  that  in  the  worst  of  times,  the human spirit endures, and the best in men can emerge.

Please check the RMR website daily for the next two years to read Private Duval’s diary. He maintained his diary from the day he left Montreal until arriving back in Montreal with the Regiment on Easter Sunday, 20 April 1919.

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