The Armistice that ended World War I

Crowds celebrating the signing of the armistice in Martin Place, Sydney. Photo from the Australian War Memorial collection.
Crowds celebrating the signing of the armistice in Martin Place, Sydney. Photo from the Australian War Memorial collection.

The Armistice, signed by France, Britain and Germany at 5am on November 11, 1918, was an agreement to stop fighting, on the same day at 11am French time.

Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Supreme Commander, had a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne about 60 kilometres north of Paris and it was there that the signing took place.

Another armistice was signed there in 1940 when Germany forced France to sign an agreement to end fighting against them in WW2. To further strengthen the humiliation of surrender, Adolf Hitler deliberately sat in the same seat as Ferdinand Foch during the original armistice. Later the carriage was exhibited in Germany, but it was destroyed in 1945. 

The terms of the Armistice, and later the Treaty of Versailles signed six months later in Paris, were intended to make Germany accept the blame of WW1 and to make it impossible for them to restart the war.

All occupied lands in Belgium, Luxembourg, and France–plus Alsace-Lorraine, held since 1870 by Germany–were to be evacuated within 14 days.

The Allies were to occupy land in Germany to the west of the River Rhine and bridgeheads on the river’s east bank up to a depth of 30km.

German forces had to be withdrawn from Austria-Hungary, Romania, and Turkey. They were ordered to hand over 2,500 heavy guns, 2,500 field guns, 25,000 machine guns, 1,700 aeroplanes and all the submarines. Several warships were to be given up and those retained must be disarmed.

Germany had to provide information on mines or traps that had been placed and reveal where things had been deliberately destroyed or damaged e.g. pollution of springs or wells.

Germany had to pay reparations for the damage resulting from the fighting, totalling about $45 billion in current money. It was only in 2010 that Germany, after several renegotiations, made a final payment of $120 million.

The map of Europe changed significantly. New independent countries were formed including Poland, Finland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. Russia became the Soviet Union and the Ottoman Empire later became the country of Turkey. Germany also had to give up the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine to France. 

In order to establish world peace, an organisation called the League of Nations with 42 founding member countries was formed.

Its member countries hoped to prevent wars by helping to settle future international disputes, establish fair labour conditions, improve global health, control the global arms trade, and protect minorities in Europe.