November 11, 1918, the armistice put an end to the Great War

November 11, 1918, the armistice put an end to the Great War

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The armistice of November 11, 1918 putend of the First World War. Signed in Rethondes in a General Foch wagon in the middle of the Compiègne forest, heThe fighting between the Allies and Germany, which has lasted for four years, has come to an end. The Great War was responsible for the death of 9 million soldiers including 1.3 million for France and 15 million civilians. November 11 will officially becomenational commemoration in 1922 to celebrate the memory of veterans.

Before the armistice of November 11, 1918, four years of war

November 11, 1918 put an end to a long-term world war that had started 4 years earlier. The triggering event was the Sarajevo bombing ofJune 28, 1914. Serbian studentGravilo Princip, assassinates the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Unfortunate consequence: Austria then declares war on Serbia, accused of having organized this attack. On the pretext of a French air attack, Germany declared war on France on August 3 and invaded Belgium the next day. It's theOctober 11let France declare war on Austria Hungary.

The alliance system is structured as follows: on the one hand there is theTriple Entente created in 1907 comprising France, United Kingdom and Russia and on the other theTriple Alliance, created in 1882 integrating Austria Hungary, Germany and Italy which will change sides in 1915.

As a reminder, the First World War breaks down into three phases:

  • The war of movement (1914) where the victorious battle of the Marne was held on September 6-11.
  • The war of the trenches or of position (1915-1917): the soldiers settle in the trenches and resort massively to the artillery. The Battle of Verdun caused the death of 500,000 men.
  • American aid then the resumption of the war of movement in 1918: the United States intervened in April 1917.

March 1918: the course of the war races

While the front in the west had remained relatively frozen for four years, the war in the east marked a turning point in March 1918 when Bolshevik Russia signed peace with the central empires (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottomans) in Brest -Litvosk, at the cost of colossal territorial losses.

From then on, the German generals resumed the offensive in the west by relaunching the war of movement. A breakthrough in the Saint-Quentin region in late March and early April 1918 sank the English army. The German generals thus hope to gain a decisive advantage before theAmerican commitment, who entered the war the previous year, was not effective on the front lines. The German advance was nevertheless stopped by the Franco-British in Amiens.

Allied armies, placed under the command-in-chief of General Foch repulsed a German offensive in Flanders in April and in Aisne in June. A final offensive - known as peace - was repulsed in July 1918 in Champagne. It was then the turn of the allies to take the initiative in the Marne and Amiens with the support of the Americans and a significant commitment from the tanks. Success combined with a lasting psychological effect. The fate of arms finally suggests a way out of the conflict.

Towards the end of the nightmare?

In mid-August 1918, German military leaders seemed to no longer believe in a possibility of victory but refused to take responsibility for opening peace talks with the enemy. Under pressure from multiple nationalities and on the verge of explosion, Austria-Hungary appealed for peace which was rejected by the allies. In the Balkans and in the East, the Ottoman Empire is collapsing. At the end of September 1918, the Allied troops launched a general offensive which forced the Germans to fall back on the Meuse. In mid-October an attempt to negotiate peace with the Americans, more conciliatory (the famous 14 points of Wilson) failed on the prerequisite of the abdication of the German Kaiser William II. From then on, the French made known the military conditions they wanted to see imposed on Germany in the conditions of an armistice, to make it impossible to resume fighting if the peace negotiations fail.

As the German general staff dragged out armistice talks, the stampeding Austro-Hungarian army laid down their arms on 3 November after an Italian victory in the Veneto. In Germany, now isolated, the naval mutiny and an insurrectionary situation in many cities forced the German government to enter into negotiations for an armistice.

The armistice of November 11, 1918

On November 8, Generalissimo Foch presented the conditions of the armistice to Secretary of State Erzberger, chairman of the German delegation. The German army must withdraw behind the left bank of the Rhine, hand over its heavy weapons, its war fleet and its trains, and free the Allied prisoners. The abdication and flight of William II precipitates negotiations.

On the basis of President Wilson’s 14 points, the objective of which is to perpetuate peace, the German plenipotentiaries sign the armistice with the allies at dawn, in Marshal Foch's wagon parked in a Glade in Rethondes in the forest of Compiègne. The ceasefire must come into force at 11 a.m. and Foch obtained the maintenance of most of the clauses demanded by the French: recovery of Alsace-Lorraine, demobilization of the German army and navy, and occupation. of the Rhineland.

The news of this end of hostilities is greeted with immense relief, especially a France or the loss of life and material damage were considerable, the eastern quarter of the country being reduced to ruins.

Everywhere in Europe there are nearly 10 million dead - including 1.5 million for France - without counting the many wounded and missing. In many parts of the world, especially in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, hostilities will continue for many years after the armistice of November 11 and the subsequent Versailles peace treaty in June 1919. “There will be more it is difficult to win peace than to win the war ”, said a lucid Georges Clemenceau despite the victory ...

November 11, remembrance day

November 11, 1920 celebrates the first tributeto the unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe. Article 1 of the law of November 2 states that "The honors of the Pantheon will be given to the remains of one of the unidentified soldiers who died on the field of honor during the 1914-1918 war. The transfer of the remains of this soldier will be done solemnly on November 11, 1920 ».

To this end, on November 10,Auguste Thin, a 21-year-old young man and Private in the 132nd Infantry Regiment was chosen to choose one of eight anonymous coffins containing the remains of soldiers killed in the war. By adding the numbers of his regiment (1 + 2 + 3), his choice was based on the sixth coffin. The other seven were buried in the Faubourg Pavé cemetery in Verdun.The entombment of the unknown soldier under the vault of the Arc de Triomphe takes place on January 28, 1921. The following inscription can be read on the slab "Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914-1918".

It was in 1922 that November 11 becomes the day ofnational commemoration. The following year, the flame of remembrance will be lit by André Maginot, Minister of War and Pensions. A monument to the dead will be erected in all the communes of France, accompanied by a ceremony organized by the city. Each year, the flame of remembrance is rekindled by the President of the Republic. Note that November 11 is also a public holiday for Belgium and Canada.

For further

- The end of the nightmare: November 11, 1918, by Rémy cazals. Editions Privat, September 2018.

- The armistice of Rethondes: (November 11, 1918), by Pierre Renouvin. NRF, 2006.

November 11, 1918, by Marc Ferro. Perrin, October 2008.

Video: History - The last soldier - Armistice 11 november 1918 by OCI Music - Film Score Genre