November 11, 1918: World War I ends as Armistice is signed

Fifty-two months of bloody conflict came to an end as Allied and German leaders signed the Armistice which brought an end to the fighting on the Western Front.

On November 11, 1918, Allied leaders and German officials signed the Armistice that brought an end to four and a half years of fighting on the Western Front, effectively bringing World War I to a close.

While not a surrender, the Armistice represented a complete defeat for Germany, which had been seeking a ceasefire since its military situation had become hopeless in late September.

The German delegation, under Secretary of State and peace advocate Matthias Erzberger, arrived in a forest clearing near the north French town of Compiegne on November 8 with the intention of winning some concessions.

But at the discussions, which took place in the private railway carriage of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch, there was no question of negotiation. When Erzberger was told that the German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, had abdicated, and was then instructed by Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg to sign the armistice on the Allied terms, the First World War was effectively at an end.

Marshal Foch (second right) and Allied officials outside the railway carriage

The Armistice was signed at 5am on the morning of November 11, and came into effect at 11am the same day. Its terms included the removal of German troops from occupied territories, the internment of the German navy and surrender of the feared U-boat fleet, the surrender of all cannons, planes and machine guns and the immediate release of all Allied prisoners of war.

[July 1, 1916: 20,000 British lives are lost on the first day of the Battle of the Somme]

Fighting continued right up to the 11am deadline, at which point, according to one corporal at the Front, German soldiers climbed out of their trenches, bowed and walked away. Exhausted Allied soldiers could barely bring themselves to celebrate the end of 52 long months of fighting, but in the towns and cities of the victorious nations, people were dancing in the streets at the news that the Great War was finally at an end.

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