<– Part 225 – November 10, 1918 | Part 226 – November 17, 1918 | Epilogue 1 –>

“At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent.”

New York Times November 11, 1918

The Armistice of Compiègne, agreed upon at 5am (Paris time), signed between 5:12 and 5:20, and finalized at 5:45, declared the end of fighting at 11am. Within the railcar headquarters of French Marshall Foch, the final belligerent facing the Entente, the German Empire, agreed to the occupation of the Rheinland by the four Allied powers – U.S., Belgium, Britain, and France; the annulling of the Brest-Litovsk treaty that took advantage of weakened Russia; and other concessions regarding militaries, navies, and more. The armistice will hold until December 13, with extensions as necessary.

Entente artillery kept firing until the last moments to avoid having to carry away the ammunition, as well as to be ready in case negotiations broke down. There were 11,000 casualties in the last 11 hours of the war. A major offensive led by the Belgian army was interrupted, as the armistice surprised them; one-third of all Belgian casualties were in the last month.

The final soldiers from each of the Entente nations to die:

  • Britain: George Edwin Ellison at 9:30am, while scouting
  • France: Augustin Trebuchon, a messenger, was telling French forces storming the Meuse that soup would be served when the fighting ended. Killed at 10:45.
  • Canada (and final Commonwealth casualty): George Lawrence Price, sniped while advancing on the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine, at 10:58.
  • United States (and final casualty of the war): Henry Gunther. Recently demoted and attempting to redeem himself, he charged “astonished” German gunners who attempted to wave him off but were forced to fire. Killed in the final seconds of the war.

Soldiers from the U.S. 64th Regiment celebrate

The collapse of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires continues. Poland declared its independence as the Second Polish Republic, its first time as an independent nation in 123 years. In Germany, the chaos continues with the near-complete collapse of the Imperial Government following Wilhelm II’s abdication; two distinct ruling councils are vying for control, though power seems to be coalescing around Friederich Ebert, head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is attracting conservative and nationalist groups to its cause.

On November 12, Austria was declared a republic by its National Assembly. The rump state, now the “Republic of German-Austria,” so-named due to its primary German populace in remaining lands, as well as a recognition of its probable need to be annexed by the German republic. This difficulty in maintaining independence is magnified by the other independent remnants of the empire refusing to trade necessities with it, such as grain and coal. In Austria too the Social Democrats were given power by the Assembly in an effort to stave off left-wing revolution.

On November 13, the undefeated German General Lettow-Vorbeck, unaware of his nation’s surrender, took undefended Kasama from the British in East Africa. The next day, at 7:30m, he was informed of the surrender and promptly signed a ceasefire, before marching his troops to a formal surrender at Abercom, per British instructions.

Czechoslovakia declared indepenmdence November 14, with Tomáš Masaryk named president and a temporary constitution adopted.

<– Part 224 – November 3, 1918 | Part 225 – November 10, 1918 | Part 226 – November 17, 1918

Australian troops scaling the walls of Le Quesnoy, a village on the Sambre Canal

Additional fighting erupted at the Sambre Canal November 4, as the Allies continue to push the crumbling German army back, preventing them from forming any type of defensive line. At dawn, British and French divisions, coupled with only 37 tanks available for combat, attacked the canal, the sight of fighting four years earlier. 1,200 Allied soldiers fell attempting to place bridges across, included war poet Wilfred Owen. The German defense-in-depth held until noon. French troops to the south captured Gusie and Thiérache later in the day. The crossing of the Sambre River, to depths of 2-3 miles, is now 50 miles wide. The Allies are now marching nearly-unopposed towards the Meuse, and beyond to Berlin. Sedan was captured November 6 by the French. Negotiations for an armistice with Germany began the next day in the railcar headquarters of Ferdinand Foch, French field marshall.

In Germany, the riots and protests are increasing, with Kiel and Wilhelmshaven now both rocked by revolt. The “14 Points,” issues by the soldiers in revolt, are now finding allies amongst the entire populace:
  1. The release of all inmates and political prisoners.
  2. Complete freedom of speech and the press.
  3. The abolition of mail censorship.
  4. Appropriate treatment of crews by superiors.
  5. No punishment for all comrades on returning to the ships and to the barracks.
  6. The launching of the fleet is to be prevented under all circumstances.
  7. Any defensive measures involving bloodshed are to be prevented.
  8. The withdrawal of all troops not belonging to the garrison.
  9. All measures for the protection of private property will be determined by the soldiers’ council immediately.
  10. Superiors will no longer be recognized outside of duty.
  11. Unlimited personal freedom of every man from the end of his tour of duty until the beginning of his next tour of duty
  12. Officers who declare themselves in agreement with the measures of the newly established soldiers’ council, are welcomed in our midst. All the others have to quit their duty without entitlement to provision.
  13. Every member of the soldiers’ council is to be released from any duty.
  14. All measures to be introduced in the future can only be introduced with the consent of the soldiers’ council.

On November 9, Kaiser Wilhelm II of German abdicated the throne and fled to Holland. Multiple declarations of a new German Republic have been declared, as the confusion and revolt grows. The following day, Romania re-entered the war against the Central Powers.

Anthem for Doomed Youth – Wilfred Owen
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
      — Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
      Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
     Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
      And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
      Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
      The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
nd each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

<– Part 223 – October 27, 1918 | Part 224 – November 3, 1918 | Part 225 – November 10, 1918

The once and current flagship sunk

Infantry strength on the Western front this year, showing the effects of American arrival in the summer and the Hundred Days Offensive

On October 28, the Austro-Hungarian empire began its retreat from Italy. This was not only triggered by the loss of 90,000 troops in combat but the surrender of another 448,000, nearly one-third of the entire army. Additionally, rebels in Bohemia declared the founding of Czechoslovakia, prompting other nationalities to also declare their independence, including the Slavs the next day to found “Yugoslavia,” “Land of the Southern Slavs.” A Hungarian independence politician, Mihály Károlyi, seized power on October 31, forcing the emperor to appoint him Hungarian prime minister. His first act was officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian compromise agreement, ending the entire state, and leaving Emperor Karl with only his German, Danubian, and Alpine territories. Trieste was seized by the Allies on November 3. This full collapse of a once Great Power, having taken only 2 weeks since the October 18 statement from the United States that forced national autonomy, is remarkable for its speed.

On October 29, Wilhelm Groener, an army chief-of-staff, was recalled and appointed First Quartermaster General, replacing Ludendorff as Deputy Chief of the General staff. One of his first acts has been addressing rising revolts in Germany, sparked by several sailor mutinies amongst the High Seas fleet starting the day before, in response to an order to engage the British Royal Navy in a decisive encounter (and one the Germans would most likely lose). Following arrests of the mutineers, additional sailors reached out to several unions and political parties for support. Several thousand people gathered at a shipyard in Kiel earlier today, trumpeting the slogan, “Frieden und Brot,” “Peace and bread.” Police fired warning shots and then fired into the crowd, killing 7 and injuring 29. The crowd dispersed, but tensions remain.

The final combat between the Allies and the Ottoman empire, at Sharqat, ended October 30, when the Ottoman commander learned of the armistice signed earlier that day (and following a successful bayonet charge by dismounted British Hussars). The armistice, effective noon the 31st, orders the Ottomans to withdraw all troops into Anatolia, allow the British garrisons along the Dardanelles and Bosporus, permission to quell any disorder in Ottoman territory, demobilization of the Ottoman Army and air force, and full access to their infrastructure for the Allies. The Middle Eastern front has ended.

The Austro-Hungarian navy at Pula was handed over to the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs. However, the Austrian’s former flagship Viribus Unitis, a dreadnought, renamed Jugoslavia, was sunk in an Allied raid November 1, as the Allies were not aware of the transfer, nor the neutrality of the new nation.

With the Americans clearing the Argonne forest, and the French reaching the Aisne river, the Allied advance along the Meuse-Argonne continues.