Armistice of 11 November 1918

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Photograph taken after reaching agreement for the armistice that ended World War I. This is Ferdinand Foch's own railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne. Foch's chief of staff Maxime Weygand is second from left. Third from the left is the senior British representative, Sir Rosslyn Wemyss. Foch is second from the right. On the right is Admiral George Hope. Armisticetrain (slight crop).jpg
Photograph taken after reaching agreement for the armistice that ended World War I. This is Ferdinand Foch's own railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne. Foch's chief of staff Maxime Weygand is second from left. Third from the left is the senior British representative, Sir Rosslyn Wemyss. Foch is second from the right. On the right is Admiral George Hope.

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice signed at Le Francport near Compiègne that ended fighting on land, sea and air in World War I between the Allies and their opponent, Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also known as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed at 5:45 a.m. by the French Marshal Foch, [1] it came into force at 11:00 a.m. Paris time on 11 November 1918 and marked a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender.

Armistice situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting

An armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, since it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace. It is derived from the Latin arma, meaning "arms" and -stitium, meaning "a stopping".

Compiègne Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Compiègne is a commune in the Oise department in northern France. It is located on the Oise River. Its inhabitants are called Compiégnois.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Contents

The actual terms, largely written by the Allied Supreme Commander, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, included the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of German forces to behind the Rhine, Allied occupation of the Rhineland and bridgeheads further east, the preservation of infrastructure, the surrender of aircraft, warships, and military materiel, the release of Allied prisoners of war and interned civilians, eventual reparations, no release of German prisoners and no relaxation of the naval blockade of Germany.

Ferdinand Foch French soldier and military theorist

Marshal Ferdinand Jean Marie Foch was a French general and military theorist who served as the Supreme Allied Commander during the First World War. An aggressive, even reckless commander at the First Marne, Flanders, and Artois campaigns of 1914–1916, Foch became the Allied Commander-in-Chief in late March 1918 in the face of the all-out German spring offensive, which pushed the Allies back using fresh soldiers and new tactics that trenches could not contain. He successfully coordinated the French, British and American efforts into a coherent whole, deftly handling his strategic reserves. He stopped the German offensive and launched a war-winning counterattack. In November 1918, Marshal Foch accepted the German cessation of hostilities and was present at the armistice of 11 November.

Rhine river in Western Europe

The Rhine is one of the major European rivers, which has its sources in Switzerland and flows in a mostly northerly direction through Germany and the Netherlands, emptying into the North Sea. The river begins in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps, forms part of the Swiss-Liechtenstein, Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-German and then the Franco-German border, then flows through the German Rhineland and the Netherlands and eventually empties into the North Sea.

Rhineland historic region of Germany

The Rhineland is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany along the Rhine, chiefly its middle section.

Although the armistice ended the fighting on the Western Front, it had to be prolonged three times until the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed on 28 June 1919, took effect on 10 January 1920.

Western Front (World War I) main theatre of war during the First World War

The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.

Treaty of Versailles one of the treaties that ended the First World War

The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to the war. The other Central Powers on the German side signed separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.

Last page of the Armistice agreement Armistice 18 novembre 1918.jpg
Last page of the Armistice agreement

Background

October 1918 telegrams

Front page of The New York Times on 11 November 1918 NYTimes-Page1-11-11-1918.jpg
Front page of The New York Times on 11 November 1918

On 29 September 1918 the German Supreme Army Command informed Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Imperial Chancellor, Count Georg von Hertling at Imperial Army Headquarters in Spa of occupied Belgium, that the military situation facing Germany was hopeless. Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff, probably fearing a breakthrough, claimed that he could not guarantee that the front would hold for another two hours and demanded a request be given to the Entente for an immediate ceasefire. In addition, he recommended the acceptance of the main demands of US president Woodrow Wilson (the Fourteen Points) including putting the Imperial Government on a democratic footing, hoping for more favorable peace terms. This enabled him to save the face of the Imperial German Army and put the responsibility for the capitulation and its consequences squarely into the hands of the democratic parties and the parliament. He expressed his view to officers of his staff on 1 October: "They now must lie on the bed that they've made for us." [2]

<i>Oberste Heeresleitung</i> highest echelon of command of the army (Heer) of the German Empire

The Oberste Heeresleitung was the highest echelon of command of the army (Heer) of the German Empire. In the latter part of World War I, the Third OHL assumed dictatorial powers and became the de facto political authority in the empire.

Wilhelm II, German Emperor German Emperor and King of Prussia

Wilhelm II was the last German Emperor (Kaiser) and King of Prussia. He reigned from 15 June 1888 until his abdication on 9 November 1918 shortly before Germany's defeat in World War I.

Count (Male), or Countess (Female), is a historical title of nobility in certain European countries, varying in relative status, generally of middling rank in the hierarchy of nobility. The etymologically related English term, "county" denoted the land owned by a count. Equivalents of the rank of count exist or have existed in the nobility structures of some non-European countries, such as hakushaku during the Japanese Imperial era.

On 3 October 1918, the liberal Prince Maximilian of Baden was appointed Chancellor of Germany (prime minister), replacing Georg von Hertling in order to negotiate an armistice. [3] After long conversations with the Kaiser and evaluations of the political and military situations in the Reich, by 5 October 1918, the German government sent a message to President Wilson to negotiate terms on the basis of a recent speech of his and the earlier declared "Fourteen Points". In the subsequent two exchanges, Wilson's allusions "failed to convey the idea that the Kaiser's abdication was an essential condition for peace. The leading statesmen of the Reich were not yet ready to contemplate such a monstrous possibility." [4] As a precondition for negotiations, Wilson demanded the retreat of Germany from all occupied territories, the cessation of submarine activities and the Kaiser's abdication, writing on 23 October: "If the Government of the United States must deal with the military masters and the monarchical autocrats of Germany now, or if it is likely to have to deal with them later in regard to the international obligations of the German Empire, it must demand not peace negotiations but surrender." [5]

Prince Maximilian of Baden German chancellor

Maximilian, Margrave of Baden, also known as Max von Baden, was a German prince and politician. He was heir presumptive to the grand ducal throne of Baden, and in October and November 1918 briefly served as Chancellor of the German Empire. He sued for peace on Germany's behalf at the end of World War I based on U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, which included immediately transforming the government into a parliamentary system, by handing over the title of Chancellor to SPD Chairman Friedrich Ebert and unilaterally proclaiming the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II. Both events took place on 9 November 1918, the beginning of the Weimar Republic.

Georg von Hertling German chancellor

Georg Friedrich Karl Freiherrvon Hertling was a German politician who served as the Minister-President of Bavaria 1912–1917 and then as Minister-President of Prussia and Chancellor of the German Empire from 1917 to 1918. He was the first party politician to hold the office.

Abdication voluntary or forced renunciation of sovereign power

Abdication is the act of formally relinquishing monarchical authority. Abdications have played various roles in the succession procedures of monarchies. While some cultures have viewed abdication as an extreme abandonment of duty, in other societies, abdication was a regular event, and helped maintain stability during political succession.

In late October 1918, Ludendorff, in a sudden change of mind, declared the conditions of the Allies unacceptable. He now demanded to resume the war which he himself had declared lost only one month earlier. However the German soldiers were pressing to get home. It was scarcely possible to arouse their readiness for battle anew, and desertions were on the increase. The Imperial Government stayed on course and Ludendorff was replaced by Wilhelm Groener. On 5 November, the Allies agreed to take up negotiations for a truce, now also demanding reparation payments. [6]

Wilhelm Groener German general

Karl Eduard Wilhelm Groener was a German general and politician. His organisational and logistical abilities resulted in a successful military career before and during World War I.

Reparations are broadly understood as compensation given for an abuse or injury. The colloquial meaning of reparations has changed substantively over the last century. In the early 1900s, reparations were interstate exchanges : punitive mechanisms determined by treaty and paid by the surrendering side of conflict, such as the World War I reparations paid by Germany and its allies. Now, reparations are understood as not just war damages but compensation and other measures provided to victims of severe human rights violations by the parties responsible. The right of the victim of an injury to receive reparations and the duty of the part responsible to provide them has been secured by the United Nations.

The latest note from President Wilson was received in Berlin on 6 November 1918. That same day, the delegation led by Matthias Erzberger departed for France. [7]

A much bigger obstacle, which contributed to the five-week delay in the signing of the Armistice and to the resulting social deterioration in Europe, was the fact that the French, British and Italian governments had no desire to accept the "Fourteen Points" and President Wilson's subsequent promises. For example, they assumed that the de-militarization suggested by Wilson would be limited to the Central Powers. There were also contradictions with their post-War plans that did not include a consistent implementation of the ideal of national self-determination. [8] As Czernin points out:

The Allied statesmen were faced with a problem: so far they had considered the "fourteen commandments" as a piece of clever and effective American propaganda, designed primarily to undermine the fighting spirit of the Central Powers, and to bolster the morale of the lesser Allies. Now, suddenly, the whole peace structure was supposed to be built up on that set of "vague principles", most of which seemed to them thoroughly unrealistic, and some of which, if they were to be seriously applied, were simply unacceptable. [9]

German Revolution

The sailors' revolt which took place during the night of 29 to 30 October 1918 in the naval port of Wilhelmshaven spread across the whole country within days and led to the proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918 and to the announcement of the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. [lower-alpha 1] However, in various areas soldiers challenged the authority of their officers and on occasion established Soldiers' Councils. Thus for example the Brussels Soldiers' Council was set up by revolutionary soldiers on 9 November 1918.

Also on 9 November 1918, Max von Baden handed over the office of Chancellor to Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat. Ebert's SPD and Erzberger's Catholic Centre Party had enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the Imperial government since Bismarck's era in the 1870s and 1880s. They were well represented in the Imperial Reichstag, which had little power over the government, and had been calling for a negotiated peace since 1917. Their prominence in the peace negotiations would cause the new Weimar Republic to lack legitimacy in right-wing and militarist eyes.

Negotiation process

The Armistice was the result of a hurried and desperate process. The German delegation headed by Matthias Erzberger crossed the front line in five cars and was escorted for ten hours across the devastated war zone of Northern France, arriving on the morning of 8 November 1918. They were then taken to the secret destination aboard Ferdinand Foch's private train parked in a railway siding in the Forest of Compiègne. [10]

Foch appeared only twice in the three days of negotiations: on the first day, to ask the German delegation what they wanted, and on the last day, to see to the signatures. The Germans were handed the list of Allied demands and given 72 hours to agree. The German delegation discussed the Allied terms not with Foch, but with other French and Allied officers. The Armistice amounted to complete German demilitarization (see list below), with few promises made by the Allies in return. The naval blockade of Germany was not completely lifted until complete peace terms could be agreed upon. [11] [12]

There were very few negotiations. The Germans were able to correct a few impossible demands (for example, the decommissioning of more submarines than their fleet possessed), extended the schedule for the withdrawal and registered their formal protest at the harshness of Allied terms. But they were in no position to refuse to sign. On Sunday 10 November 1918, the Germans were shown newspapers from Paris to inform them that the Kaiser had abdicated. That same day, Ebert instructed Erzberger to sign. The cabinet had earlier received a message from Hindenburg, requesting that the armistice be signed even if the Allied conditions could not be improved on. [13] [14]

The Armistice was agreed upon at 5:00 a.m. on 11 November 1918, to come into effect at 11:00 a.m. Paris time (noon German time), [15] for which reason the occasion is sometimes referred to as "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month". Signatures were made between 5:12 a.m. and 5:20 a.m., Paris time.

Allied Rhineland occupation

The occupation of the Rhineland took place following the Armistice. The occupying armies consisted of American, Belgian, British and French forces.

Prolongation

The Armistice was prolonged three times before peace was finally ratified. During this period it was also developed.

Trèves Agreement, 17 January 1919 [16]
Brussels Agreement, 14 March 1919 [16]

Peace was ratified at 4:15 p.m. on 10 January 1920. [18]

Key personnel

For the Allies, the personnel involved were all military. The two signatories were: [19]

Other members of the delegation included:

For Germany, the four signatories were: [19]

Terms

Among its 34 clauses, the armistice contained the following major points: [20]

A. Western Front

B. Eastern and African Fronts

C. At sea

D. General

Aftermath

American soldiers of the 64th Regiment, part of the 7th Division, celebrate the news of the Armistice. US 64th regiment celebrate the Armistice.jpg
American soldiers of the 64th Regiment, part of the 7th Division, celebrate the news of the Armistice.

The British public was notified of the armistice by a subjoined official communiqué issued from the Press Bureau at 10:20 a.m., when British Prime Minister David Lloyd George announced: "The armistice was signed at five o'clock this morning, and hostilities are to cease on all fronts at 11 a.m. to-day." [22] An official communique was published by the United States at 2:30 pm: "In accordance with the terms of the Armistice, hostilities on the fronts of the American armies were suspended at eleven o'clock this morning." [23]

News of the armistice being signed was officially announced towards 9 a.m. in Paris. One hour later, Foch, accompanied by a British admiral, presented himself at the Ministry of War, where he was immediately received by Georges Clemenceau, the Prime Minister of France. At 10:50 a.m., Foch issued this general order: "Hostilities will cease on the whole front as from November 11 at 11 o'clock French time The Allied troops will not, until further order, go beyond the line reached on that date and at that hour." [24] Five minutes later, Clemenceau, Foch and the British admiral went to the Élysée Palace. At the first shot fired from the Eiffel Tower, the Ministry of War and the Élysée Palace displayed flags, while bells around Paris rang. Five hundred students gathered in front of the Ministry and called upon Clemenceau, who appeared on the balcony. Clemenceau exclaimed "Vive la France!"—the crowd echoed him. At 11:00 a.m., the first peace-gunshot was fired from Fort Mont-Valérien, which told the population of Paris that the armistice was concluded, but the population were already aware of it from official circles and newspapers. [25]

Although the information about the imminent ceasefire had spread among the forces at the front in the hours before, fighting in many sections of the front continued right until the appointed hour. At 11 a.m. there was some spontaneous fraternization between the two sides. But in general, reactions were muted. A British corporal reported: "...the Germans came from their trenches, bowed to us and then went away. That was it. There was nothing with which we could celebrate, except cookies." [26] On the Allied side, euphoria and exultation were rare. There was some cheering and applause, but the dominant feeling was silence and emptiness after 52 exhausting months of war. [26]

The peace between the Allies and Germany was subsequently settled in 1919, by the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles that same year.

Last casualties

Gravestone of Henry N. Gunther in Baltimore GuntherHNstone.JPG
Gravestone of Henry N. Gunther in Baltimore

Many artillery units continued to fire on German targets to avoid having to haul away their spare ammunition. The Allies also wished to ensure that, should fighting restart, they would be in the most favourable position. Consequently, there were 10,944 casualties, of whom 2,738 men died, on the last day of the war. [27]

An example of the determination of the Allies to maintain pressure until the last minute, but also to adhere strictly to the Armistice terms, was Battery 4 of the US Navy's long-range 14-inch railway guns firing its last shot at 10:57:30 am from the Verdun area, timed to land far behind the German front line just before the scheduled Armistice. [28]

Augustin Trébuchon was the last Frenchman to die when he was shot on his way to tell fellow soldiers, who were attempting an assault across the Meuse river, that hot soup would be served after the ceasefire. He was killed at 10:45 a.m.

Earlier, the last soldier from the UK to die, George Edwin Ellison of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, was killed that morning at around 9:30 a.m. while scouting on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium.

The final Canadian, and Commonwealth, soldier to die, Private George Lawrence Price, was shot and killed by a sniper while part of a force advancing into the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine just two minutes before the armistice to the north of Mons at 10:58 a.m., to be recognized as one of the last killed with a monument to his name.

Henry Gunther, an American, is generally recognized as the last soldier killed in action in World War I. He was killed 60 seconds before the armistice came into force while charging astonished German troops who were aware the Armistice was nearly upon them. He had been despondent over his recent reduction in rank and was apparently trying to redeem his reputation. [29] [30]

News of the armistice only reached African forces, the King's African Rifles, still fighting with great success in today's Zambia about a fortnight later. The German and British commanders then had to agree on the protocols for their own armistice ceremony. [31]

Legacy

11th of November 2018 at Paris, in remembrance for the 100 years since the end of the war in the Western front World War I centenary.jpg
11th of November 2018 at Paris, in remembrance for the 100 years since the end of the war in the Western front

Celebration of the Armistice became the centrepiece of memories of the war, along with salutes to the unknown soldier. Nations built monuments to the dead and the heroic soldiers, but seldom to the generals and admirals. [33] 11 November is commemorated annually in many countries under various names such as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, and in Poland it is Independence Day.

The end of the Second World War in China (end of the Second Sino-Japanese War) formally took place on 9 September 1945 at 9:00 (the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month). The date was chosen in echo of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 (on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month); and because "nine" is homophone of the word for "long lasting" in Chinese (to suggest that the peace won would last forever [34] ).

Stab-in-the-back myth

The myth that the German Army was stabbed in the back, by the Social Democratic government that was formed in November 1918, was created by reviews in the German press that grossly misrepresented British Major-General Frederick Maurice's book, The Last Four Months. "Ludendorff made use of the reviews to convince Hindenburg." [35]

In a hearing before the Committee on Inquiry of the National Assembly on November 18, 1919, a year after the war's end, Hindenburg declared, "As an English general has very truly said, the German Army was 'stabbed in the back'." [35]

See also

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References

Informational notes

  1. The announcement by Prince Maximilian of Baden had great effect, but the abdication document was not formally signed until 28 November 1918.

Citations

  1. "Armistice: The End of World War I,1918". EyeWitness to History. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  2. Axelrod 2018, p. 260.
  3. Czernin 1964.
  4. Czernin 1964, p. 7.
  5. Czernin 1964, p. 9.
  6. Morrow, Jr. 2005, p. 278.
  7. Leonhard 2014, p. 916.
  8. Leonhard 2014, p. 884.
  9. Czernin 1964, p. 23.
  10. Rudin 1967, pp. 320–349.
  11. Rudin 1967, p. 377.
  12. Haffner 2002, p. 74.
  13. Haffner 2002, p. 113.
  14. Rudin 1967, p. 389.
  15. Poulle, Yvonne (1999). "La France à l'heure allemande" (PDF). Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes (in French). 157 (2): 493–502. doi:10.3406/bec.1999.450989.
  16. 1 2 Salter, Arthur (1921). Allied shipping control : an experiment in international administration. Oxford: Oxford : Clarendon Press. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  17. Edmonds & Bayliss 1987, pp. 42–43.
  18. Edmonds & Bayliss 1987, p. 189.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Convention (PDF), 11 November 1918, retrieved 17 November 2017
  20. Rudin 1967, pp. 426–427.
  21. Leonhard 2014, p. 917.
  22. "Peace Day in London". The Poverty Bay Herald . Gisborne, New Zealand. 2 January 1919. p. 2. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
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  28. Breck 1922, p. 14.
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  31. "Where World War One finally ended". BBC News. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
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  34. Hans Van De Ven, "A call to not lead humanity into another war", China Daily , 31 August 2015.
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Bibliography

Further reading

Coordinates: 49°25′39″N2°54′23″E / 49.4275°N 2.906389°E / 49.4275; 2.906389