WHEN THE GUNS FI­NALLY FELL SILENT

HOW THE AR­MISTICE BROUGHT THE NIGHT­MARE TO AN END

Gloucestershire Echo - - ARMISTICEDAY 100 YEARS ON -

THE Ar­mistice was the mo­ment the guns fell silent on the West­ern Front. A ces­sa­tion of fight­ing had been sought by Ger­many, whose armies were de­feated and cit­i­zens were be­gin­ning to rebel, while its al­lies were start­ing to drop out of the war.

Fight­ing con­tin­ued up to the mo­ment of the Ar­mistice, at 11am on Novem­ber 11, 1918, with some soldiers killed just min­utes or hours be­fore hos­til­i­ties of­fi­cially ended.

The Ar­mistice was pre­ceded by the hun­dred days of­fen­sive, be­gin­ning with the Bat­tle of Amiens on Au­gust 8, 1918, which had seen the French, Bri­tish and US armies push the Ger­man Army back to the bat­tle­fields of 1914.

The Al­lies had taken con­trol of the skies with many more air­craft than the Ger­mans, and by the end of Au­gust 1918 there were more than 1.4 mil­lion Amer­i­can troops in France, help­ing the Al­lies to keep fight­ing.

On Septem­ber 29, 1918, the Al­lies breached one of the strong­est sec­tions of the Hin­den­burg Line – which formed the Ger­man de­fences – and by early Oc­to­ber had com­pletely bro­ken through.

The Ger­mans had hoped for a “peace with­out vic­tory” when they sought an Ar­mistice with the US, af­ter it be­came clear they could not win the war. But the Al­lies im­posed stern terms to make sure they did not restart fight­ing, with clauses de­mand­ing they leave Bel­gium, France and Al­sace-lo­raine, aban­don mil­i­tary equip­ment and trains, al­low the oc­cu­pa­tion of cer­tain Ger­man cities by the Al­lies and re­turn all pris­on­ers of war.

Some soldiers on the West­ern Front were for­mally told the news the Ar­mistice had been signed by se­nior of­fi­cers, oth­ers heard the ru­mours or picked up the broad­casts from the Eif­fel Tower in Paris.

Many felt a sense of anti-cli­max at the end of fight­ing, or even a sense of dis­be­lief – while oth­ers went out and got drunk.

But the Ar­mistice was not the end of the war: it took six months to ne­go­ti­ate the peace treaty that ended the war and it many months for soldiers to be de­mobbed and brought home to the UK. There were ef­forts to build a land “fit for he­roes” for the re­turn­ing ser­vice­men, but for many the war left them with life­long phys­i­cal and men­tal scars.

Ar­mistice Day cel­e­bra­tions, in Trafal­gar Square, Lon­don

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