5 Things You Need To Know About the Armistice

As we mark the anniversary of the Armistice, here are some fascinating facts on the day which ended the carnage of World War One.

A soldier of the Great War, known unto God

Also known as the Armistice of Compiègne, the Armistice of 11 November 1918 was mostly drawn up by the Supreme Allied Commander, Ferdinand Foch. It was to be the final nail in the coffin for the Great War, which had begun in 1914 and plunged Europe into mechanised slaughter on a shocking scale.


When the German delegates arrived in France to negotiate the end of hostilities, the French were certainly in no rush to escort them straight to the meeting place with the Allied chiefs. Instead, they took the German officials on a long, 10-hour tour of the countryside, to showcase the devastation caused by four years of war.

But it wasn't a simple matter of signing a ceasefire. On meeting with their opposite numbers, three days of complex negotiations got underway. In the midst of proceedings, Kaiser Wilhelm II, the ruler of the German Empire, abdicated. The German delegates received word from German Army Chief of Staff Hindenburg informing them of this unrest, urging them to quickly accept whatever terms they could.

Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch.

Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch.


The signing between the Allied and German commanders took place in the Forest of Compiègne, aboard a passenger carriage on Marshal Foch's private train. Following the war, the carriage was actually put back into service as normal, before its significance earnt it a stay in a military museum.

Later on, the carriage was returned back to the forest, to become the centrepiece of a monument which had been specially built there to house it, and its unveiling ceremony was watched by a number of important officials, including Marshal Foch himself. However, while it was intended to stay there indefinitely, it would be just a few years before it was moved again under less peaceful circumstances...


On the 22nd of June 1940, during the German occupation of France in World War Two, it was the turn of the French to surrender to the Germans. In a patent act of petty revenge, Hitler insisted that the signing take place in the exact spot where the German Empire was bought to its knees back in 1918 - on Foch's railway carriage. That wasn't enough however. When the officials of the French Third Republic and Nazi Germany were on-board the rail car, Hitler made sure to sit in the very same seat used by Ferdinand Foch during the 1918 Armistice.

The carriage was then taken to Berlin where it was put on display. In 1945 it was moved again, this time to an area called Crawinkel to be kept safe. However during an American attack on the town, the SS soldiers charged with guarding it deliberately set it ablaze.


While the Armistice effectively provided a German surrender, and consequently ended the war, it wasn't backed by everyone. Many leaders, soldiers, and civilians felt frustrated that the enemy hadn't suffered a real defeat. The German Empire was in an extremely weak position and had absolutely no chance of winning the war - it would just be a matter of time.

General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, was one such person who didn't favour the Armistice. Like many others, he believed crushing the Germans the traditional way would ensure there'd be no more fighting. Even Foch felt similarly, especially during the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, when he declared: "This isn't a peace. It's a cease-fire for 20 years!" As it turned out, he was absolutely right.


While it was signed at 5.00am Parisian time, the armistice wasn't due to come into effect until 11.00am - poetically ending the war on the "eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month". For those few hours, war raged on - and in some cases more aggressively than it had before. Harry S. Truman, an artillery captain and America's future president, kept firing until the very last minute.

Some of the last fatalities of World War One included British soldier George Edward Ellison, who was killed at 9:30am, and there is an account of a Lt. Tomas of the German army who was killed after 11.00am, by Americans who hadn't yet received word that the war had ended.