Guns fi­nally fall silent

Benalla Ensign - - Front Page -

Hin­den­berg, the Ger­man dic­ta­tor Gen­er­als, re­signed and the Kaiser fled to neu­tral Hol­land.

An ar­mistice was ar­ranged, but it would not be on the gen­er­ous terms pre­vi­ously of­fered by Woodrow Wil­son.

With­out any choice, a Ger­man civil­ian gov­ern­ment agreed.

At eleven o’clock on the morn­ing of Novem­ber 11, 1918, the guns fell silent.

The Great War was over af­ter four years and four months of slaugh­ter.

An ar­mistice, not a peace, had been agreed be­tween the war­ring par­ties.

The peace treaty would come later.

The ar­mistice had been signed at 5 am that morn­ing, but the French com­man­der-in-chief Fer­di­nand Foch had re­fused to agree to an im­me­di­ate cease­fire.

He pre­ferred the sym­bol­ism of ‘‘eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’’.

About 11 000 men be­came ca­su­al­ties in those six hours.

An Amer­i­can, Henry Gun­ther, was the last sol­dier killed in the Great War.

He was killed one minute be­fore the ar­mistice came into ef­fect.

He was a mem­ber of the 313th US In­fantry Reg­i­ment.

Al­though his com­man­der knew an ar­mistice was due to go into ef­fect that morn­ing, he or­dered the Reg­i­ment into ac­tion to cap­ture the vil­lage of Chau­mont­de­vant-Damviller.

As Gun­ther ap­proached a Ger­man road­block com­pris­ing two ma­chine guns, the Ger­mans, aware of the im­pend­ing ar­mistice, waved him away.

Gun­ther kept com­ing and fired off a cou­ple of shots.

A Ger­man ma­chine gun fired and killed him in­stantly.

By Novem­ber 11, all Aus­tralian in­fantry were out of the front lines.

The bat­tles of the Hun­dred Days Of­fen­sive and the breach­ing of the strongly for­ti­fied Hin­den­berg Line had taken a dire toll on them.

The 60 Aus­tralian bat­tal­ions were down to 152 to 200 men each.

The full strength of a bat­tal­ion was 1000 sol­diers.

Their last bat­tle had been on Oc­to­ber 5.

That day seven Aus­tralian bat­tal­ions had at­tacked the vil­lage of Mont­bre­hain and suc­cess­fully breached the fi­nal Beau­revoir trench of the Hin­den­berg Line.

A small part of an Aus­tralian tun­nelling com­pany took part in the later bat­tle of Lan­drecies on Novem­ber 4.

Their only task was to build a bridge over a lock to widen the at­tack frontage for British and New Zealand troops.

In the Mid­dle East, the fi­nal Aus­tralian in­volve­ment had been the cap­ture of Da­m­as­cus on Oc­to­ber 1, 1918.

There the Aus­tralian Desert Mounted Corps, armed with sabres and act­ing as cav­alry, had forced their way into the city against Ger­man and Ot­toman re­sis­tance.

Three-hun­dred-an­deigh­teen-thou­sand Aus­tralians served their coun­try.

How­ever, of­fi­cial Aus­tralian ca­su­al­ties are an un­der­es­ti­ma­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to these, 62 000 Aus­tralians died in the Great War and there were 155 000 wound­ings.

These fig­ures take no ac­count of crip­pling post­trau­matic stress in­juries suf­fered by an es­ti­mated one in five sol­diers.

Uniquely, Aus­tralia also ex­cluded war-re­lated in­jury or ill­ness from its ca­su­alty fig­ures.

Deaths from gassing and wounds also con­tin­ued to oc­cur for years af­ter­ward.

How­ever, they were not counted as war-re­lated deaths if they oc­curred af­ter Anzac Day 1922.

Con­sid­er­ably more than 1000 men in Be­nalla and dis­trict vol­un­teered for mil­i­tary ser­vice.

This was al­most ev­ery med­i­cally fit man of el­i­gi­ble age.

Two-hun­dred-and-four of these men died on ac­tive ser­vice.

The Great War changed Aus­tralia.

Per­haps na­tion.

It cer­tainly robbed Aus­tralia of a gen­er­a­tion.

— John Barry, ANZAC Com­mem­o­ra­tive Work­ing Party, Coo-ee — Hon­our­ing

our WWIheroes it made us a

The Be­nalla Ceno­taph.

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