Armistice of 11 November 1918 | World War I

Armistice of 11 November 1918 | World War I

Overview

The Armistice of 11 November 1918, contracted at Le Francport near Compiègne, ended warfare on land, sea, and air among the Associates and their final opponent, Germany. The Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire had already consented to armistices. The Armistice of Compiègne was signed at 5:45 a.m. by the Allied Supreme Commander, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, and went into effect at 11:00 a.m. Paris time on November 11, 1918. It noticeable a victory for the Allies and a defeat for Germany, though it was not formally a surrender. The terms included a cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, the withdrawal of German forces west of the Rhine, Associated profession of the Rhineland and positions further east, the protection of structure, the surrender of aircraft, warships, and military equipment, the release of Allied convicts of war and incarcerated civilians, eventual reparations, no release of German prisoners, and no relaxation of the navies. The truce was extended three times as talks on a peace treaty continued. Finally, the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, went into effect on January 10, 1920. On the last day of the conflict, the fighting lasted until 11 a.m., with 2,738 men dead.

Background

October 1918 Telegrams

The German Supreme Army Command at Imperial Army Headquarters in occupied Belgium notified Kaiser Wilhelm II and Imperial Chancellor Count Georg von Hertling on September 29, 1918, that Germany's military situation was hopeless. Fearing a breakthrough, Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff claimed that he couldn't guarantee the front would hold for another two hours and ordered that a plea for an emergency truce be sent to the Entente. In addition, he advocated accepting US President Woodrow Wilson's key demands, which included putting the Imperial Government on a democratic foundation in exchange for more favorable peace conditions. This allowed him to spare the Imperial German Army's face while firmly blaming the capitulation and its consequences on the democratic parties and parliament. On October 1st, he told his staff officers, "They now must lie on the bed that they've built for us."

To negotiate a truce, the liberal Prince Maximilian of Baden was appointed Chancellor of Germany on 3 October 1918, succeeding Georg von Hertling. After lengthy discussions with the Kaiser and assessments of the Reich's political and military situations, the German administration referred a message to President Woodrow Wilson on October 5, 1918, requesting that he negotiate terms based on his recent speech and the previously declared "Fourteen Points." Wilson's remarks are repeated in the subsequent two encounters "The concept that the Kaiser's abdication was a necessary prerequisite for peace was not conveyed. The Reich's greatest leaders were not yet prepared to consider such a horrific possibility." Wilson demanded the withdrawal of Germany from all occupied territories, the cessation of submarine activities, and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, writing on October 23: "If the Régime of the United States should deal with the military masters and monarchal dictators of Germany now, or if it is expected to have to agreement with them later regarding the international sphere of influence, or if it is expected to deal with them later concerning the global sphere of influence, or if it is likely to deal

Late in October 1918, Ludendorff had a change of heart and pronounced the Allies' demands to be unacceptable. He now requested that the war, which he had proclaimed lost only a month before, be resumed. The German militaries were eager to return home. It was challenging to reawaken their preparation for the fight, and desertions were on the rise. Wilhelm Groener replaced Ludendorff with the Imperial Government, which kept them on track. The Allies decided to resume discussions for a truce on November 5th, and they are now demanding reparation payments as well. President Wilson's most recent note was received in Berlin on November 6, 1918. The delegation led by Matthias Erzberger left for France on the same day. The French, British, and Italian governments refused to accept the "Fourteen Points," and President Wilson's subsequent assurances was a considerably more substantial impediment that contributed to the five-week delay in signing the Armistice and the consequent societal disintegration in Europe. They anticipated, for example, that Wilson's proposed demilitarization would be limited to the Central Powers. Their post-war plans also contained inconsistencies, such as the lack of systematic execution of the goal of national self-determination.

German Revolution

The sailors' uprising, which began in the naval port of Wilhelmshaven on the night of October 29 to 30, 1918, quickly spread across the country, leading to the proclamation of a republic on November 9 and the abdication of Wilhelm II. Troops disputed their officers' authority in some regions, and on occasion, formed Soldiers' Councils, such as the Brussels Soldiers' Council, which revolutionary soldiers founded on November 9th. Max von Baden also handed over the role of Chancellor to Friedrich Ebert, a Social Democrat, on November 9th. Since Bismarck's reign in the 1870s and 1880s, Ebert's SPD and Erzberger's Catholic Centre Party had had a tense relationship with the Imperial government. Since 1917, they sought a negotiated peace in the Imperial Reichstag, which had limited control over the administration. In the eyes of right-wing and militarists, their involvement in the peace negotiations would rob the new Weimar Republic of legitimacy.

Negotiation Process

The Armistice was reached hastily and desperately. On November 8, 1918, a German delegation led by Matthias Erzberger crossed the front line in five automobiles. It was escorted for 10 hours across the devastated battle zone of Northern France. They were subsequently transported to the secret location onboard Ferdinand Foch's private train, stationed in a railway siding in the Compiègne Forest. Foch only showed up twice during the three-day negotiations: asking the German delegation what they wanted and overseeing the signatures. The Germans were given 72 hours to comply with the Allied demands after receiving the list. The German council discussed the Allied needs with other French and Allied officers, not with Foch. The Armistice resulted in complete German demilitarization in exchange for few pledges from the Allies. The naval blockade of Germany was not entirely removed until full peace accords were reached.

There were only a few discussions. The Germans were able to amend a few unrealistic conditions such as the decommissioning of more submarines than their fleet had, delay the departure timeline, and express their formal protest at the harshness of the Allied terms. They were, however, unable to refuse to sign. The Germans were shown newspapers from Paris on Sunday, November 10, 1918, informing them that the Kaiser had abdicated. Ebert gave Erzberger instructions to sign the same day. The cabinet had previously received a message from Paul von Hindenburg, the German High Command's commander, demanding that the armistice be signed even if Allied conditions could not be altered. The Armistice was contracted at 5:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918, and was set to occur at 11:00 a.m. Paris time (noon German time), hence the nickname "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Amid 5:12 a.m. and 5:20 a.m., Paris time, signatures were made.

Allied Rhineland Occupation

The Rhineland was occupied after the Armistice was signed. The occupying army was made up of forces from the United States, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and France.

Continuation

The Armistice was continued three times before peace was finally approved. But, throughout this period it was also developed.

 

Event

 

Date

First Armistice

11 November 1918 – 13 December 1918

First continuation of the armistice

13 December 1918 – 16 January 1919

Second continuation of the armistice

16 January 1919 – 16 February 1919

Trèves Treaty

17 January 1919

Third continuation of the armistice

16 February 1919 – 10 January 1920

Brussels Arrangement

14 March 1919

Peace was approved at 4:15 p.m. on 10 January 1920.

Key Personnel

 

Personnel

 

Name

Designation

The two signatories for the Allies (the personnel involved were all military)

Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch

the Allied supreme commander

First Sea Lord Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss

the British representative

Other members of the delegation

General Maxime Weygand

Foch's chief of staff

Rear-Admiral George Hope

Deputy First Sea Lord

Captain Jack Marriott

British naval officer (Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord)

The four signatories for Germany

Matthias Erzberger

Civilian politician

Count Alfred von Oberndorff

from the Foreign Ministry

Detlof von Winterfeldt

Major General, Army

Ernst Vanselow

Captain, Fleet

Terms

Amongst its 34 sections, the armistice contained the following significant points:

  1. Western Front
  • Within six hours of signing the agreement, all confrontations on the Western Front, both on land and in the air, will be over.
  • Within 15 days, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Alsace-Lorraine must all be evacuated. Allies may be entrusted with the care of sick and injured soldiers.
  • All residents of the four German-controlled territories must be repatriated immediately.
  • 5,000 weaponry pieces, 25,000 machine guns, 3,000 minenwerfers, 1,700 aircraft, including all-night bombers, 5,000 locomotives, 150,000 railway carriages, and 5,000 road vehicles were among the items surrendered.
  • Within 31 days, the area on the west bank of the Rhine, as well as 30 km radius bridgeheads on the east side of the Rhine at Mainz, Koblenz, and Cologne.
  • Allied troops will occupy and maintain vacated area at Germany's expense.
  • There will be no removal or damage of civilian objects or residents in evacuated areas, and all military equipment and facilities will be left untouched.
  • To identify all minefields on land and at water.
  • All connectivity (roads, railways, canals, bridges, telegraphs, telephones) and agricultural and industrial infrastructure must be preserved.
  1. Eastern and African Fronts
  • On August 1, 1914, all German forces in Romania, the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire were ordered to return to German territory. However, under the pretence of fighting the Bolsheviks, tacit help was given to the pro-German West Russian Volunteer Army. These countries must be accessible to the Allies.
  • Renouncement of the Brest-Litovsk Agreement between Russia and the Bucharest Convention with Romania.
  • Withdrawal of German forces in Africa.
  1. At sea
  • All naval warfare must be halted immediately, and all German submarines must be surrendered undamaged in 14 days.
  • German surface warships on the list will be imprisoned in seven days and the others will be deactivated.
  • Allied ships, as well as those from the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, had free access to German seas.
  • The naval barrier of Germany remains.
  • Any Black Sea ports must be evacuated immediately, and all captured Russian vessels must be handed over.
  1. General
  • All Allied prisoners of war and detained civilians must be released immediately and without retaliation.
  • Assets plundered from Belgium, Romania, and Russia are being surrendered pending a financial settlement.

Aftermath

The armistice was employed at five o'clock this morning, and hostilities are to end on all fronts at 11 a.m. today," British Prime Minister David Lloyd George said at 10:20 a.m. in a subjoined formal communiqué released by the Press Bureau. In line with the conditions of the Armistice, hostilities on the fronts of the American Army were ceased at eleven o'clock this morning, the US said in an official communique released at 2:30 p.m.

The signing of the armistice was officially proclaimed in Paris around 9:00 a.m. Foch arrived at the Ministry of War an hour later, accompanied by a British admiral, and was immediately greeted by France's Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau. Foch issued the following general order at 10:50 a.m.: "On November 11 at 11 a.m. French time, hostilities will end on the whole front. Allied soldiers will not advance beyond the line reached on that day and at that hour until additional orders are given." Clemenceau, Foch, and the British admiral arrived at the Élysée Palace five minutes later. The Ministry of Élysée Palace and War the raised flags when the first shot from the Eiffel Tower was fired, and bells rang around Paris. Clemenceau appeared on the balcony after a gathering of 500 students assembled in front of the Ministry. "Vive la France!" cried Clemenceau, and the mob repeated him. The initial peace-gunshot was fired from Fort Mont-Valérien at 11:00 a.m., informing the people of Paris that the armistice had been signed, but the people had already heard about it from official circles and publications.

Even though the word of the impending ceasefire had circulated among the frontline forces in the hours prior, fighting persisted in several front areas until the allotted hour. There was considerable spontaneous fraternization between the two sides around 11 a.m. However, reactions were largely muted. Finally, according to a British corporal, the Germans emerged from their trenches, bowed to us, and departed. That was the end of it. Except for cookies, there was nothing we could do to celebrate. Euphoria and elation were uncommon on the Allied side. After 52 long months of battle, there was some yelling and celebration, but the overwhelming impression was silence and desolation. The Allies and Germany reached an agreement in 1919, which was formalized by the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles that similar year.

Last Casualties

To avoid having to transport their extra ammunition, many artillery units continued to fire on German targets. The Allies also wanted to ensure they were in the best possible position if conflict broke out again. As a result, on the last day of the combat, there were 10,944 casualties, with 2,738 men dying. The US Navy's Battery 4 of long-range 14-inch railway guns fired its last round at 10:57:30 a.m. from the Verdun zone, timed to land far behind the German front line just before the scheduled Armistice, representative the Allies' determination to maintain pressure until the last minute while also adhering strictly to the Armistice terms. When Augustin Trébuchon was shot on his way to notify fellow soldiers planning an attack over the Meuse River that hot soup would be served after the ceasefire, he became the last Frenchman to die. At 10:45 a.m., he was slain. 5th Royal Irish Lancers, the last British soldier to die, was killed earlier that morning while scouting on Mons, Belgium. Private George Lawrence Price, the previous Canadian and Commonwealth soldier to die, was shot and murdered by a assassin while part of a force proceeding into the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine just two minutes before the armistice was signed north of Mons at 10:58 a.m., to be remembered as one of the last killed with a monument in his honor. Henry Gunther, an American, is often regarded as the war's previous soldier who died in combat. He was murdered 60 seconds before the armistice went into effect while attacking shocked German troops, aware that the truce was approaching. He had been depressed over his recent rank reduction and was attempting to repair his reputation. About a fortnight later, news of the ceasefire reached African forces, the King's African Rifles, who were still fighting with great success in Northern Rhodesia (today's Zambia). The German and British leaders had to agree on the protocols for their armistice ceremonies.

The fact that so many soldiers perished on the final day of the battle, especially in the hours after the peace had been signed but not yet taken effect, was much lamented after the conflict. In the United States launched an investigation to determine why and whether the leaders of the American Expeditionary Forces, especially John Pershing, should be held responsible. Many graves of French troops who perished on November 11th were backdated to November 10th in France.

Legacy

The commemoration of the Armistice and salutes to the Unknown Soldier became the focal point of wartime recollections. Nations erected monuments to the fallen and great troops, but generals and admirals were rarely glorified. Many countries observe 11 November under various titles such as Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day in Poland. On September 9, 1945, at 9:00 a.m., the Second World War in China (the Second Sino-Japanese War) officially ended (the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month). The date was chosen to commemorate the 1918 Armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Stab in the Back Myth

The notion that the Social Democratic government in November 1918 stabbed the German army in the back was developed by reviews in the German press that severely misrepresented British Major-General Frederick Maurice's book, The Last Four Months. "Ludendorff used the reviews to persuade Hindenburg."

"As an English general has quite correctly described, the German Army was stabbed in the back," Hindenburg declared in a hearing before the National Assembly's Committee of Inquiry on November 18, 1919, a year after the war ended.

Last updated: 2021-December-23
Tags: History World War I
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