11/11 – Armistice

Canadian soldiers celebrate after their victory at Vimy Ridge, 1917. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1918 Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch convened a meeting in a train car 60 km (40 miles) from Paris to sign the Treaty of Compiègne, ending the First World War. The armistice brought a complete end to all fighting and was revised several times up to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. After 4 years, 3 months and 2 weeks of fighting that resulted in roughly 16 million human beings killed, the armistice came into effect at 11 am French time (although it was signed by all parties by 5:30 am). Canadian Private George Lawrence Price and American Private Henry Gunter are thought to be the last two casualties of the conflict, as the two perished at roughly 10:59 am in separate engagements.

Foch chose to hold the meeting in secret so the German delegation would not be abused by French crowds. The eventual conditions of the surrender (elaborated at Versailles in 1919) were incredibly unfavourable to Germany; angst about German “mistreatment” lasted for at least two decades during the “interbellum” period, where many in the pro-war Nazi movement recalled apparent mistreatment during WWI. Naturally, when Germany invaded France in 1940, France’s surrender was signed in the same train car in the Forest of Compiègne.

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