<– 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.

<– Part 222 – October 20, 1918 | Part 223 – October 27, 1918 | Part 224 – November 3, 1918

The last German forces in the Caucasus were evacuated October 21, leaving the Ottomans to their own devices.

Italian machine gun nest atop Monte Grappa

Reaching Aleppo on October 23, in their pursuit of the crumbling Ottoman force of 20,000 (though only 4,000 are combat-ready), the combined British and Arab forces encouraged the Ottoman garrison to surrender but were refused. Although plans were drawn up for an attack on the city the morning of the 26, the Arabs attacked the night before, and after hours of intense hand-to-hand fighting in the streets, the garrison surrendered at 10am, just as the British armored cars were arriving for the attack. Elements have managed to evacuate north, including Ottoman general Mustafa Pasha.

North of Baghdad, British forces defeated the Ottomans at Sharqat, also on the 23rd, as their press to capture the key Ottoman oil fields.

The Italian army launched a large offensive on October 24, the one-year anniversary of their humiliating withdrawal following the battle of Caporetto. Nine Italian divisions attacked Monte Grappa to push the nine Austro-Hungarian divisions off; although the defenders were reinforced with an additional six divisions, their withdrawal is expected. Centered around Vittorio Veneto, the front-wide offensive includes nearly 1.5 million Italians and 1.8 million Austro-Hungarians. The Italians have secured a hold across the Piave river, while Austro-Hungarian elements have refused orders to counter-attack, hindering their defensive efforts.

On the Western front, British forces cross the Selle river October 25, following a failed German counter-attack the day before.

In response to crumbling German defenses, Erich Ludendorff was forced to resign October 26 as First Quartermaster-General of the German General Staff, a role which has seen him essentially as a co-dictator with Hindenburg.

On October 27, the United States Army expelled the final German divisions from the Champagne region, ending the 3-week battle at the Blanc Mont Ridge.

<– Part 221 – October 13, 1918 | Part 222 – October 20, 1918 | Part 223 – October 27, 1918

At the Blanc Mont Ridge, American infantry continues to push the Germans out of Champagne and the Argonne Forest.

On October 14, Groupe d’Armées des Flandres, a collection of Belgian, British, and French divisions, attacked the Germans at Courtrai, on the French/Belgian border, and pushed the Germans back to Ghent by the 19th, having met minimal German resistance, taking 12,000 captives and nearly 600 artillery pieces. A follow-up was launched earlier today to cross the Lys and Escaut rivers.

Following the success at Cambrai, the British forces attacked the Germans on the Selle River on October 17; despite facing stiff resistance, the German defense has broken and have withdrawn nearly 5 miles.

The Entente continues its liberation of the Balkans.

Germany announced earlier today that they were suspending their policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

<– Part 220 – October 6, 1918 | Part 221 – October 13, 1918 | Part 222 – October 20, 1918

On October 7, after six days surrounded by Germans, the “Lost Batallion” was finally rescued. Only 194 of the 500+ Americans are healthy; the rest casualties. In fact, the Allies only knew the Battalion was there when they received a carrier pigeon with the message, “WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL [sic] 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.”

The Allies have successfully taken the bridge of the St. Quintin Canal, suffering 25,000 casualties to the German’s 36,000 POWs.

At Cambrai, British forces engaged the Germans on October 8, using the new tactics they have developed, including strategic use of tanks. The German forces, weakened as they were by the wide frontal assault across the entire Allied line, nevertheless were crushed in 3 days. Of the 750,000 British forces, 12,000 were killed, while the Germans lost 10,000 of their 180,000. The Allies have now broken through the Hindenburg Line. British General Henry Rawlinson wrote, “Had the Boche [Germans] not shown marked signs of deterioration during the past month, I should never have contemplated attacking the Hindenburg line. Had it been defended by the Germans of two years ago, it would certainly have been impregnable….” The severe hit to German morale indicates to the Allies that the war can be won by year’s end, rather than the original plan of a massive final assault in 1919.

Follow the collapse of enemy power in the Balkans, and the surrender of Bulgaria, Allied forces have begun the liberation of Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro. In Palestine, following the capture of Damascus October 1, the British Desert Mounted Corps of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force are pursuing the remnants of the Ottoman army.

<– Part 219 – September 29, 1918 | Part 220 – October 6, 1918 | Part 221 – October 13, 1918

Ferdinand I of Bulgaria

At Meuse-Argonne, the German counterattack nearly shattered the US 35th Division but was barely halted by an engineer battalion. However, the adjacent French units have advanced nearly 10 miles at Somme-Py and Saint-Thierry, but are awaiting the Americans to catch up from their 2-5 mile penetration.

Following the first phase, the second phase commenced October 4, which saw all of the first phase assault divisions replaced by fresh troops. One American unit, the “Lost Battalion,” has been cut off in the Argonne forest since October 2. Efforts are being made to rescue the 500 Americans.

Boris III of Bulgaria

Fighting at Ypres ended October 2 with stiffening German resistance, with the high ground around the town taken by the Allies. To assist in reinforcements, 80 Belgian and British planes have been dropping supplies to the troops. The Allies lost 9,100 soldiers, fairly evenly-split between Belgian and British, while 10,000 Germans have been taken prisoner, with hundreds of artillery pieces and machine guns.

Following the humiliation of Bulgaria, the Tsar of Bulgaria, Ferdinand I, abdicated October 3 to his 24-year-old son Boris III.

“We were no longer engaged in a maneuver for the pinching out of a salient, but were necessarily committed, generally speaking, to a direct frontal attack against strong, hostile positions fully manned by a determined enemy.”

In Palestine, two cavalry charges, at Kauab and Kiswe, broke entrenched Ottoman positions and opened up Damascus to the British, losing less than a dozen cavalrymen but taking nearly 700 prisoners. With the fall of Damascus on October 1, British cavalry is pursuing the shattered Yildirim Army Group.

On October 2, a British and Italian task force shelled the Austro-Hungarian port of Durazzo, sinking and damaging 8 ships, and forcing the evacuation of the entire port. The Allies had 6 ships damaged.

Fighting in Champagne erupted October 3 at Blanc Mont Ridge, as American forces seek to push the German Army out of the entire region.

Rumors have begun that Germany and Austria-Hungary have opened secret peace negotiations with U.S. President Wilson.

<– Part 218 – September 22, 1918 | Part 219 – September 29, 1918 | Part 220 – October 6, 1918

Following the success of the Vardar offensive in Bulgaria, coupled with mass retreats, desertions, mutinies, and the rapid Allied advance has led to Bulgaria suing for an armistice, signed September 29 at Salonica. The Bulgarian army is ordered to demobilize, captured territories are returned, as is all captured equipment, and German & Austrian troops have to leave the country within 4 weeks. In return, the capital, Sofia, will remain unoccupied, though any strategic sites the Allies need to take will be held temporarily, and free passage for Allied troops is also required.

In Palestine, fighting at Megiddo ended September 25, with the British forces suffering around 5,500 casualties, while the entire Ottoman force, shy 6,000 escapees, has fallen – nearly 30,000 troops. All along the front, key positions have been captured by the Allies, including Nablus, Amman, Tiberias, the key port of Haifa, Samakh (which saw both mounted and dismounted charges), Damascus, and Deraa. The days following saw a failed cavalry charge at Irbi and the capture of Jisr Benat Yakub (Jacob’s Ford, across the Jordan River) on September 27. British forces now hold almost all territory west of the Jordan river.

An audacious Allied plan to launch four major attacks over four days kicked off September 26.

Canadian engineers building a bridge to cross Canal du Nord

An enormous offensive was launched September 26, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which has nearly 1.2 million American and French soldiers assaulting 450,000 Germans. The Americans spent 3 hours firing artillery beforehand, at a cost of $1 million per minute, firing more than the entire amount of ammunition spent during their 4 years of fighting from 1861-1865. The initial American assaults, begun at 5:30am, saw mixed results with colossal casualties. In General Pershing’s own words, “We were no longer engaged in a maneuver for the pinching out of a salient, but were necessarily committed, generally speaking, to a direct frontal attack against strong, hostile positions fully manned by a determined enemy.” Nonetheless, the Americans continue to attack.

On September 27, Canadian and New Zealand forces launched an attack across Canal du Nord, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, near Cambrai, in an effort to tie down Germans, preventing them from reinforcing elsewhere. Crossing on secretly-constructed bridges at 5:20am, capturing the surprised defenders within hours.

The next morning, September 28, Belgian and British forces attacked at Ypres (the fifth battle there), following a 3-hour artillery bombardment. They advanced 6 miles, pushing Germans back and retaking land lost earlier in the year. By the next day, all the high ground had been taken.

British Brigadier General J.V. Campbell speaking to soldiers of the 137th Brigade, on Riqueval Bridge

The bridge in 2003, with now-overgrown banks

The final attack of the plan saw a devastating artillery bombardment at the St. Quentin Canal, with 1,600 guns firing nearly a million shells, specifically targeted at headquarters and German artillery, aided by captured maps of German defenses. On September 29, two American divisions and two Australian divisions, and 150 tanks began the assault, which made minimal progress on the flanks, slowing down the center as well, though it pierced the Hindenburg line in several places. British forces elsewhere captured the key Riqueval Bridge, preventing German engineers from destroying it.

Around Entente lines, large numbers of people have suddenly begun dying of a virulent strain of influenza. It’s possible this strain was brought by American forces to France and is the same as that ravaging the United States.



<– Part 217 – September 15, 1918 | Part 218 – September 22, 1918 | Part 219 – September 29, 1918

In Bulgaria, the Vardar Offensive continues its gains for the Allies, as the front is 16 miles wide and 4.5 miles deep by the end of September 16. The following morning, at 4 am, Greek forces scaled a cliff barehanded to take a key Bulgarian artillery and observation position on Mount Preslap. By the 18th, the advance had taken 9.5 miles.

On September 16, at Doiran, an artillery duel began, running 2 days until British forces attacked at 5 am on September 18. A pincer movement took prisoners, but was pushed back by artillery and a Bulgarian counterattack, losing all gains. At Dobro Pole, the Entente scored a victory, as the Bulgarians lost 5,700 (3,000 of them prisoners) to the Entente’s 2,200. At 4 am the next morning saw more shelling, and, finally, Doiran was taken after 5 hours of fighting. However, the offensive was halted due to a lack of manpower. Bulgaria has lost 1,500 casualties and 1,200 prisoners, while the Greeks have lost 2,400 and the British 3,900. On September 20, news that Dobro Pole has fallen reached the Bulgarian army, who began retreating (and deserting) to defend their homeland.

On September 18, at Épehy, the British attacked the Hindenburg line. Although they have lost 600,000 men in the past 6 months, 180,000 of them within the last 6 weeks, this is the first major offensive since they have rested, and comes on the heels of the victory at Havrincourt. The attack was launched at 5:20 am with a creeping barrage; the thrust is aimed at a fortified area 3 miles deep and 20 miles long. The center saw enormous success thanks to Australian divisions, who captured a mass of prisoners equal to their entire force, though suffering high casualties themselves. Due to the casualties, they refused to attack in support of a neighboring British unit, and were charged with being AWOL rather than desertion. The battle is an encouragement to the Entente, as it shows that the German defense is weakening and final success is possible. The British have suffered 1,300 casualties and captured 12,000 Germans.

On September 19, the British began an offensive against Turkish forces in Palestine. Called the “Battle of Megiddo” by a British officer with a fancy for BIblical proportions, it was intended to be smaller, but actions by T.E. Lawrence to destroy Ottoman raillines saw 3,000 tribesmen rise up in revolt, drawing Turkish soldiers away to put them down. At 1 am, a British bomber destroyed the telephone line connecting the Turk’s headquarters from the forces in the field. At 4:30, the artillery barrage began, with the infantry attacking 20 minutes later. The Desert Mounted Corps is advancing up the coast with little opposition. In the words of Lt. Col. Rex Osborn, “From 10.00 hours onwards, a hostile aeroplane observer, if one had been available, flying over the Plain of Sharon would have seen a remarkable sight – ninety–four squadrons, disposed in great breadth and in great depth, hurrying forward relentlessly on a decisive mission – a mission of which all cavalry soldiers have dreamed, but in which few have been privileged to partake.”

The next days have seen ports, villages, and cities captured by the rapid British attack, and the last Ottoman army west of the Jordan river withdrew September 21. At Nablus, a retreating Turkish army was bombed and strafed by British airplanes every 3 minutes for an hour, destroying the entire unit. T.E. Lawrence wrote that “the RAF lost 4 killed. The Turks lost a corps.” Nablus was captured later that day, and the Jordan river crossings the next. The entire British force is now occupying miles of Turkish territory unopposed, as the lightning advance of infantry, cavalry, and airplanes seems to be heralding a new era of lightning-fast war.

In the Adriatic, the French sub Circé was sunk on September 20 by a torpedo fired from the Austro-Hungarian sub U-47.

<– Part 216 – September 8, 1918 | Part 217 – September 15, 1918 | Part 218 – September 22, 1918

US General John J. Pershing

French forces approached the Hindenburg Line on September 10 near Savy-Dallon, and at the Battle of Vauxaillon four days later. The British are also nearing the German defensive position, piercing it at Havrincourt September 12.

Plan of battle for US forces at Saint-Mihiel

On September 12, American forces under General John J. Pershing attacked the retreating Germans at Saint-Mihiel, a salient in the lines, in an attempt to push through at retake fortified Metz. Combined with artillery and air support, this is the first battle led primarily by the Americans, who scored a significant victory against the unprepared Germans, who staged a fighting retreat for a day, until the salient was closed. The victory is attributed in large part to Pershing’s exquisite planning, which saw the Americans planning down to “H-hour” and “D-day,” two terms created for this battle. The Americans suffered 7,000 (4,500 killed) casualties, to the Germans’ 22,500 (included 15,000 prisoners).

At Baku, in Armenia, the beleaguered defenders were helped September 12 by a deserting Arab officer, warning them of an assault to come in two days. The attack did begin the night of the following day but was halted by a counterattack. Fighting continued all day the 14th before the defenders evacuated the city. The Ottomans lost 2,000 soldiers to 4000 Armenians and 200 British.

On September 15, at 5:30am, an Entente force of Serbs, French, and Greek forces attacked Bulgarian trenches in Dobro Pole, part of Serbia. Preceding by a day of artillery bombardment from 566 guns, paired with airial bombings and strafings, the end of the saw nearly 1/2 of all Bulgarian forces engaged as casualties; of the 12,000 attacked, 3,000 were captured and 2,700 killed. The Entente lost a total of 1,900.

Several German subs have been reported sunk by the North Sea Mine Barrage, a minefield laid from the Orkneys to Norway by US minelayers.