RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (Full Version)

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redcoat -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/4/2018 10:25:10 AM)


ORIGINAL: Capt. Harlock
Casualties were considerable, including Wilfred Owen, author of "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility", "Dulce Et Decorum Est", and "Strange Meeting", and the most famous poet of the war.

It was a tragedy made all the more poignant by the fact that his mother was informed a week later, at the same time as the local church bells were being rung to signify the end of the War on the 11th, the day the Armistice was signed.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/5/2018 3:52:27 AM)

5 November 1918

In France near the Belgian border, British troops seized the town of Aulnoye. This almost forgotten incident might otherwise have been one of the key turning points of history, for it was the location of what was then the most important railroad junction in Europe. This was where the east-west railway from Cologne met the northwest-to-southeast lateral line that had for four years sustained the German armies in France. Without it, the German forces’ right wing was no longer fully linked to their left wing, and they could not be fully supplied. Checkmate was now inevitable.

As it happened, not much immediate difference was made. The German troops were already having to retreat, unable to withstand the tremendous pressure from the combined Allied attacks. What it did mean, however, was that they would not be able to retreat to the German border as a fully equipped army. The rail lines were now crippled, and the roads were increasingly crowded with refugees. Much of their artillery and other equipment was being abandoned, without which they would not be able to turn and fight effectively.

Trains, telegraphs, and telephones allowed news to be transmitted with lightning speed. Now, they allowed a revolution to spread with unprecedented rapidity as well. With Kiel under the control of the revolutionaries, the wires hummed with the news of the revolt, followed very quickly by representatives of the sailors, students, and workers. Everywhere they found people desperate for an end to the war. The red flags of revolution began to spread across Germany.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/6/2018 2:42:37 AM)

6 November 1918

General Wilhelm Groener had replaced Ludendorff as the “First Quartermaster General”, the effective head of the German Army. On this day he arrived in Berlin, and received a telegram from the Kaiser. Negotiations with the leaders of the Allied nations were taking too long: the enemy armies should be approached for an armistice. Groener consulted with Chancellor Prince Max for a delegation to cross the lines with a white flag. Prince Max, knowing that armistice terms would now amount to surrender and apparently not grasping the situation, asked for a week’s delay. Groener informed him that a week was too long; Germany was descending into chaos, and in a week there might not be enough left of the German Army to restore order. The Chancellor countered with Monday the 11th, five days away. Groener declared that Saturday (the 9th) was the very latest. Hindenburg not merely agreed, but requested Friday the 8th. After some further debate, the Cabinet agreed unanimously.

Also in Berlin, German Parliament leader Friedrich Ebert added his voice to those arguing for the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm. The Allies had made it clear (though not in so many words) that it was necessary for peace, and the German revolutionaries were demanding it as well. Ebert declared, "If the Kaiser does not abdicate, the social revolution is inevitable. But I do not want it, I even hate it like sin."

In France, American and French troops captured Sedan, further impeding the Germans’ use of the railroads.

redcoat -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/6/2018 2:39:56 PM)

Mr and Mme Baloux of Brieulles-sur-Bar in the Ardennes welcome US soldiers from the 308th and 166th Inf. Regts. during the liberation of their town on the 6th November 1918. The soldier on the left is carrying a Chauchat ‘machine rifle.’


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/7/2018 2:55:28 AM)


The soldier on the left is carrying a Chauchat ‘machine rifle.’

Nice picture -- you have my thanks.

The Chauchat is an embarassment for me: I had made a quick write-up of its gradual replacement by the famous Browning Automatic Rifle, starting in mid-September. American industry manufactured a version chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge, but it was a spectacular failure: some firearms experts have pronounced it the worst gun ever officially issued to troops. However, the text disappeared during a data transfer, so I had to do without.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/7/2018 3:01:26 AM)

7 November 1918

The German government, though not the Kaiser, had made the decision to seek an armistice as soon as possible. The process began at the very beginning of the day:

Telegraph from Paul von Hindenburg to Ferdinand Foch, 12:30 a.m. 7 November 1918

German General Headquarters to the Allies' General Headquarters; the German Commander-in-Chief to Marshal Foch:

The German Government, having been informed through the President of the United States that Marshal Foch had received powers to receive accredited representatives of the German Government and communicate to them conditions of an armistice, the following plenipotentiaries have been named by it:
Mathias Erzberger, General H. K. A. von Winterfeld, Count Alfred von Oberndorff, General von Gruennel, and Naval Captain von Salow.
The plenipotentiaries request that they be informed by wireless of the place where they can meet Marshal Foch. They will proceed by automobile, with subordinates of the staff, to the place thus appointed.

Telegraph from Ferdinand Foch to Paul von Hindenburg, 1:30 a.m. 7 November 1918

To the German Commander-in-Chief:

If the German plenipotentiaries desire to meet Marshal Foch and ask him for an armistice, they will present themselves to the French outposts by the Chimay-Fourmies-La Capelle-Guise road.
Orders have been given to receive them and conduct them to the spot fixed for the meeting.

Telegraph from Paul von Hindenburg to Ferdinand Foch, 1 p.m. 7 November 1918

The German plenipotentiaries for an armistice leave Spa today. They will leave here at noon and reach at 5 o'clock this afternoon the French outposts by the Chimay-Fourmies-La Capelle-Guise road.
They will be ten persons in all, headed by Secretary of State Erzberger.

By this time the German Revolution, with the help of the sailors, had taken control of all large coastal cities. Hanover and Brunswick, had also fallen out of the grasp of the German autocrats. Munich was the greatest loss: a huge crowd went into the royal palace. King Ludwig III of Bavaria (below) gathered his family and fled. A "Workers' and Soldiers' Council" then declared Bavaria to be a “Volksstaat”, or People's State.

It was the first overthrow of a German principality. The others would soon follow.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/8/2018 2:57:53 AM)

8 November 1918

In the morning, the German delegation headed by Secretary of State Matthias Erzberger (below) arrived at the headquarters of Allied General-in-chief Ferdinand Foch, which was in a train car then parked on a siding in the Forest of Compiègne. Foch met them, briefly, and asked what they were there for. They replied that they were there to negotiate an armistice.

There was little in the way of negotiations: the Germans were shown the terms and given 72 hours to decide. The terms were staggering: the Germans were required to hand over 5,000 cannon, 30,000 machine-guns, 3,000 minenwerfers (heavy mortars), 2,000 aircraft, 5,000 locomotives, 150,000 railroad cars, and 5,000 trucks with spare parts. The navy was to yield their 10 best battleships, 6 battlecruisers, 8 light cruisers, the best 50 destroyers, and all serviceable submarines. There were political terms as well: evacuation of all occupied territories, evacuation of the west bank of the Rhine River plus control of three bridge-heads on the river, and renunciation of the treaties of Brest-Litovsk (Russia) and of Bucharest (Romania). Lastly, all Allied prisoners of war plus interned civilians were to be set free, with no corresponding freedom for the German POW’s.

The appalled Germans protested to Foch that the conditions were too harsh. But France had been waiting almost half a century for payback for the Franco-Prussian War and the severe terms the Prussians had imposed. Foch’s response was icy:
“I would remind you that this is a military armistice, that the war is not ended thereby, and that it is directed at preventing your nation from continuing the war. You must also recollect a reply given to us by Bismarck in 1871 when we made a similar request to what you are making now. Bismarck then said “Krieg ist Krieg” and I say to you, “la guerre est la guerre”.

The delegation pointed out that some of the terms were simply impossible. The numbers of airplanes and some other items to be surrendered were more than they actually had. Foch left these details to be worked out by subordinates.

Meanwhile, the position of the German army worsened by the day. On this date, the town of Maubeuge, about 9 km (5.6 mi) from the border with Belgium, was retaken by British forces.

Zorch -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/8/2018 3:39:28 AM)

The German mistake was to have civilians lead their delegation. This helped the generals evade responsibility for the armistice, and contributed to the later 'stab in the back' myth.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/9/2018 2:48:44 AM)

9 November 1918

In Berlin, the new government had had enough of Kaiser Wilhelm’s refusal to yield his throne, for revolutionaries had begun to appear on the streets. Chancellor Prince Max made the announcement that the Kaiser had abdicated, even though it was not, for the moment at least, true. Shortly thereafter, Social Democrat Philipp Scheidemann stepped to the balcony of the Reichstag and announced to the crowd below that not only had the Kaiser abdicated, Germany was now a republic. The false statement was immediately accepted as a fact by almost everyone, so that it became effectively true. Prince Max found himself having to resign as Chancellor in favor of the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Freidrich Ebert. (Note that Kaiser Wilhelm would not formally sign an abdication until November 28.)

In Spa, Belgium, when Kaiser Wilhelm heard of this, he proposed making an immediate armistice, and then leading the army back to Germany to restore order, and himself to the throne. Quartermaster General Groener reluctantly had to inform his Emperor that the army was unlikely to obey. Already “Soldier’s Councils” were springing up, as had happened before the Russian Revolution. There was nothing else for it but to flee to a safe exile.

Off Cape Trafalgar (near the Strait of Gibraltar, on the Atlantic side) the pre-dreadnought battleship HMS Britannia was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-50. Germany had ordered an end to unrestricted submarine warfare against commercial shipping, but warships were still fair game. The Britannia promptly took on a 10 degree list to port. A fire broke out, and the conditions below decks made it difficult to find the flooding valves for the magazines. The few that were found were hard to turn, and shortly there was a secondary explosion in a 9.2-inch magazine. However, Britannia remained afloat for more than two hours, and 39 officers and 673 crewmen were taken off. 50 men lost their lives.

Britannia was the last of the 34 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers) to be lost in the war.


redcoat -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/9/2018 9:01:42 PM)

New Zealand soldiers from a Wellington Regiment eat a meal out of mess tins in the French town of Solesmes. 9th November 1918.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/10/2018 4:16:01 AM)

10 November 1918

The Allies continued to push forward. Mézières, which had been in German hands since August 1914, was recaptured by the French. Not to be outdone, the Belgians liberated the city of Ghent. This was about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Spa, where Kaiser Wilhelm had his headquarters.

However, Wilhelm II was not waiting for the Allied advance. Early in the morning, without warning anyone outside the Kaiser’s entourage, the Imperial train got under way. It traveled a relatively short distance, for there were no continuous tracks leading into Holland. The Kaiser and his party switched to motorcars for the rest of the journey.

There was an almost comical delay at the Dutch border. Since the evacuation had not been announced, the Kaiser and his entourage had no visas. The border guards hesitated to allow the Germans in. Eventually, however, a Dutch Major arrived on the scene, realized the importance, and had the gates opened. Wilhelm II passed into Holland, and the throne of Prussia, the German Empire, and the centuries-old rule of the House of Hohenzollern passed into history.

In the military hospital in Pasewalk, Germany, the news of the Kaiser’s effective removal was delivered by an elderly priest. He announced to his stunned audience that Imperial Germany was no more, and there was to be an armistice amounting to complete defeat. The priest wept, and he was joined by many of his listeners. One was Adolf Hitler, who would later write in his memoirs, "Again everything went black in my sight. I staggered and stumbled back to my ward and buried my aching head between the blankets and pillow."

In eastern Europe, Allied forces crossed the Danube River and entered Romania. Encouraged by this, King Ferdinand proclaimed that Romania was again at war with Germany. (He personally had refused to sign the Treaty of Bucharest.) With one day to go, Romania had rejoined the Allies, and was in a position to regain her lost territory during the peace conference.

Off the Farne Islands, the Racecourse-class minesweeper HMS Ascot was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine UB-67. The Racecourse class were propelled by paddlewheels, which was adequate for coastal minesweeping. Ascot would be the last ship to be sunk in the First World War.

General Groener now made a secret arrangement with new Chancellor Freidrich Ebert. Groener promised that the army would support the new republic-government, a key step since the government had not been legally installed. For his part, Ebert agreed to maintain the military’s role as a major part of the German government, and to suppress the socialist and communist revolutionaries. German democracy was weakened at its very beginning: the civilian government would have only partial control of the military.

In Forest of Compiègne, the German delegation was shown the news of the Kaiser’s abdication. It was not strictly accurate, of course, but it was now the effective reality. The Germans sent a message to Berlin, asking what they should do. Back came the answer that the delegation was authorized to sign the armistice. The next hours were spent adjusting the numbers of weapons and transport to be surrendered, and, since the naval blockade was to be continued, adding a line that “The Allies and the United States contemplate the provisioning of Germany during the Armistice as shall be found necessary.” The clause, added to appease the Americans, would not be honored, and the blockade would be continued until June 1919.

redcoat -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/10/2018 4:37:13 PM)

The 10th November 1918 was a significant day for the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a (F904) in the Shuttleworth Collection. It encountered and shot down a Fokker D.VII near the France-Belgium border. The aircraft was in the hands of flying ace Major Charles Pickthorn MC.


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/11/2018 3:07:25 AM)

11 November 1918

At 5:00 a.m., the German delegation signed the Armistice terms, to take effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In wars past, news of peace had taken some time to travel. (The famous Battle of New Orleans was actually fought two weeks after the signing of the treaty ending the War of 1812.) Now, the news was transmitted instantly across Europe. The reactions were many. In some cases, there was immense relief. In other cases, it made little difference for the next few hours. It was a point of pride for many of the Allies to push the Germans back as far as possible before the fighting stopped. It is estimated that nearly 11,000 men were killed or wounded in the six hours before the cease-fire took effect.

American Henry Gunther of the 313th Infantry Regiment had been demoted from sergeant to private for writing a letter to home criticizing conditions at the front and advising a friend to avoid being conscripted. He was apparently consumed with regaining his rank. When his squad approached a German roadblock with two machine guns, the squad leader ordered his men to stand down, but Gunther evidently hoped one more act of bravery would get him the promotion.

Bayonet fixed, Gunther charged. The Germans, knowing the cease-fire was about to come into effect, tried to wave him off. But he kept coming, and at 10:59 am, a burst from a machine gun killed him instantly. He was the last man to die in the official part of World War One. He was, however, posthumously promoted back to sergeant.

In the German Navy:

Heavens above! but the terms are crushing! All the U-boats to be surrendered, the High Seas Fleet interned; why not say "surrendered" straight out, it will come to that, unless we blow them up in German ports. The end of Kaiserdom has come; we are virtually a republic; it is all like a dream.

We have signed, and the last shot of the world-war has been fired. Here everything is confusion; the saner elements are trying to keep order, the roughs are going round the dockyard and ships, looting freely. "Better we should steal them than the English," and "There is no Government, so all is free," are two of their cries. There has been a little shooting in the streets, and it is not safe for officers to move about in uniform, though, on the whole, I have experienced little difficulty. I was summoned to-day before the Local Council, which is run by a man who was a Petty Officer of signals in the König. He recognized me and looked away. I was instructed to take U.122 over to Harwich for surrender to the English. I made no difficulty; some one has got to do it, and I verily believe I am indifferent to all emotions.

--The Diary of a U-boat Commander

In Austria, Emperor Charles, realizing no one was willing to obey him any longer, issued a proclamation. It acknowledged the right of the Austrian people to determine the form of government, and for himself relinquished “every participation in the administration of the State." The proclamation also released all officials from their oaths of loyalty to the crown, allowing them to participate in the new government.

However, Charles believed that this was only a temporary disruption. The proclamation was not an abdication, and to the end of his life he maintained that he was still the rightful king of both Austria and Hungary. The governments of those two countries would not agree, and when he left Austria, the Austrian Parliament would pass a law banning him from ever returning.

In London, the reaction was all that could have been hoped for:

And then suddenly the first stroke of the chime. I looked again at the broad street beneath me. It was deserted. From the portals of one of the large hotels absorbed by Government Departments darted the slight figure of a girl clerk, distractedly gesticulating while another stroke resounded. Then from all sides men and women came scurrying into the street. Streams of people poured out of all the buildings. The bells of London began to clash. Northumberland Avenue was now crowded with people in hundreds, nay, thousands, rushing hither and thither in a frantic manner, shouting and screaming with joy. I could see that Trafalgar Square was already swarming. Around me in our very headquarters, in the Hotel Metropole, disorder had broken out. Doors banged. Feet clattered down corridors. Everyone rose from the desk and cast aside pen and paper. All bounds were broken. The tumult grew. It grew like a gale, but from all sides simultaneously. The street was now a seething mass of humanity. Flags appeared as if by magic. Streams of men and women flowed from the Embankment. They mingled with torrents pouring down the Strand on their way to acclaim the King. Almost before the last stroke of the clock had died away, the strict, war-straitened, regulated streets of London had become a triumphant pandemonium. At any rate it was clear that no more work would be done that day. Yes, the chains which had held the world were broken. Links of imperative need, links of discipline, links of brute force, links of self-sacrifice, links of terror, links of honour which had held our nation, nay, the greater part of mankind, to grinding toil, to a compulsive cause—every one had snapped upon a few strokes of the clock. Safety, freedom, peace, home, the dear one back at the fireside . . .

--Winston Churchill, “The World Crisis, Vol. 3”


Erik Rutins -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/11/2018 2:26:21 PM)

Thanks for this incredible thread.

Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/12/2018 3:45:44 AM)

12 November 1918

The guns along the Western front had fallen silent, but peace was not restored everywhere. The Russian Civil war was still going strong, with participation by troops from several of the Allied nations. And although Poland had not yet had its borders established and officially recognized by much of the world, it was already at war with the Ukraine over territory.

An Allied fleet sailed through the Dardanelles, on the way to controlling the Black sea. Along with that, French forces entered Constantinople, returning the once capital of the Eastern Roman and Byzantine Empires to non-Muslim control for the first time since the 15th century. It would, of course, only last for a few brief years.

In Austria, the National Assembly declared the Republic of German-Austria in the German-speaking part of the fragments of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Assembly drafted a provisional constitution that, among other things, stated "German-Austria is an integral part of the German republic". This was because the members of the Assembly felt that the new state was too small to be economically viable, and too weak to avoid being overrun by one or more of its neighbors. They had a point: Hungary was still refusing to sell grain to its former rulers.

However, it was one of the greatest examples in history of “be careful what you wish for”. Twenty years later, Austria would join with Germany, but there was no longer a German republic. Instead, Austria was annexed into Hitler’s Third Reich.

kingwanabee -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/14/2018 4:30:22 AM)

I de-lurked for the first time in years to thank Capt. Harlock for a fantastic history lesson. I've been visiting this thread almost daily for months, always learning interesting facts about the last year of the Great War. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into this thread! [:)]

berto -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/15/2018 10:30:17 PM)

A belated thanks for this most fascinating thread! [&o]

Zorch -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/15/2018 10:32:06 PM)



A belated thanks for this most fascinating thread! [&o]


Capt. Harlock -> RE: Centennial of the End of the Great War (11/17/2018 2:30:04 AM)


Unlike his character’s fate in the movie “Wonder Woman”, Erich Ludendorff had survived the war, and fled into Sweden. He had managed a good part of the German economy as well as directing the war, and had made considerable use of forced labor. However, one concession that Germany manged to get in the peace settlement was that war crimes would be tried in German courts. There were few trials and even fewer convictions. Ludendorff was able to return to Germany in less than a year.

One evening in the autumn of 1919, Ludendorff was dining with the head of the British Military Mission, Major-General Sir Neill Malcolm, and his officers, and was expatiating, with his usual vitriolic eloquence, on the way in which the Supreme Command had been betrayed by the revolution on the “home-front.” His style of speech was turgid and verbose, and in an effort to crystallize the meaning into a single sentence, General Malcolm asked him: “Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back?” Ludendorff’s eyes lit up and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone. “Stabbed in the back?” he repeated. “Yes, that’s it, exactly, we were stabbed in the back.” And thus was born a legend which has never entirely perished.

--John W. Wheeler-Bennett, "Ludendorff: The Soldier and the Politician"

Ludendorff spoke and wrote extensively, promoting the “Dolchstoßlegende“ (Stab in the Back Legend). It would turn out to be perhaps the most damaging historical falsehood ever told. The idea that the German army was undefeated in the field but betrayed at home by socialists -- many of whom were Jews -- was seized on by numbers of Germans. Those who had signed the armistice were called the “November Criminals”. Matthias Erzberger, the head the German armistice delegation, was assassinated in 1921 by two former navy officers. There is good reason to believe the myth played a large part in the election of Adolf Hitler, and the annexation of territory leading up to the invasion of Poland.

But, of course, it was false. Even as the armistice meetings began, Germany’s forces had been brought to a hopeless military position. All her allies were gone, while the U. S. still had large reserves of manpower, and then there were the countries such as Belgium, Serbia, and Romania which were recovering their territory and their populations. More immediately, the German forces on the Western front were being driven steadily back at the rate of kilometers a day, and getting weaker instead of stronger because of casualties, disease, and the equipment and supplies they had to leave behind. They had not surrendered, but they were beaten.

"What I dread is that Germany doesn't know that she was licked. Had they given us another week, we'd have taught them."

--John “Black Jack” Pershing

Human beings have a strong tendency to believe what they want to believe. Quite possibly the “Stab in the Back” legend would have caught on no matter what the Generals and politicians in Germany said. But is it possible – just possible – that an incalculable amount of death and devastation could have been avoided by a victory parade down the avenues of Berlin?

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