An eye for de­tail

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

SIX hours be­fore the guns fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Ar­mistice was signed af­ter three days of ne­go­ti­a­tions, in a rail­way car­riage in the For­est of Com­piègne. Capt Jack Mar­riott was one of four Bri­tish del­e­gates on the scene and he recorded the events with ex­tra­or­di­nary de­tail.

‘Fat and bloated-look­ing, dou­ble chin, scrubby mous­tache, wears pincenez’ is how Mar­riott de­scribed Matthias Erzberger, the first mem­ber of six Germans present, and Ad­mi­ral Ernst Vanselow he said ‘does not look at all like a sailor, more like a pork butcher’.

The Bri­tish naval of­fi­cer went on to de­scribe how a whole day was lost when the Ger­man party re­alised they’d for­got­ten a code with which they could send a tele­gram of the terms to their HQ; pa­pers had to cross the Front Line by car, tak­ing an ex­tra 36 hours.

He de­scribes the sad scene when a Ger­man rep­re­sen­ta­tive took the terms back to his gov­ern­ment with ‘a bot­tle of beer in each pocket and cry­ing his eyes out’ and says, when he tele­phoned Buck­ing­ham Palace to in­form Ge­orge V of the pro­ceed­ings, ‘the line was dread­ful and I must have been cut off about 30 times’.

Mar­riott’s ac­counts of those fate­ful days, to­gether with let­ters and the blot­ting pa­per on which the agree­ment was signed, will be sold on De­cem­ber 12 at Christie’s, SW1 (£10,000–£15,000).

The Ar­mistice del­e­gates in the For­est of Com­piègne, in­clud­ing Capt Jack Mar­riott RN (far right)

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