Sunday, 11 November 2018

waffenstillstand

Previous ceasefire agreements already had pulled out belligerents Bulgaria, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires from the fighting but the Armistice of 11 November 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) formally ended the Great War with Imperial Germany’s defeat and withdrawal jenseits the Rhein, holding the peace until the Treaty of Versailles could be negotiated.
Terms of what was technically not a surrender to the Allied powers were largely determined by Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch and parties to the truce were transported incognito across war-torn northern France to the marshal’s private carriage on a secluded railway siding in the Forest of Compiègne and representatives came to an agreement and signed pre-dawn—with the armistice effective noon German time, eleven o’clock in Paris (France was on Greenwich Mean Time until World War II when it came under German occupation and decided not to switch back afterwards).
From the field, there was a sense of relief and hope but little jubilation as fifty-two months of fierce fighting and over seventeen million lives lost had left many hollow and exhausted. This post has featured a few images from our visit to the memorial site in the summer of 2008. I remember that being the year that the last surviving veterans passed away and the war slipped from living memory.  The act of contrition and cooperation was later characterised as betrayal and facilitated the rise of more terrors but for now there is peace and that is holy.