Primary Documents - French Eyewitness Report of Armistice Negotiations, 8 November 1918

German Army Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg With German military morale in evident decline on the Western Front and revolution brewing at home - Kaiser Wilhelm II was himself obliged to abdicate on 9 November 1918 - the German government determined to negotiate an armistice with the Allies on 6 November, having issued preliminary diplomatic feelers two days earlier.

Consequently on 7 November the German Army Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg exchanged a series of telegrams with the Supreme Allied Commander, Ferdinand Foch, to agree a date, time and place for formal negotiations.  (Click here to read another Allied eyewitness account of the armistice negotiations; click here to read an account by a German delegate.)

Although Germany had insisted that it would only enter into negotiations on the understanding that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's so-called 'Fourteen Points' would form the basis for a settlement, the armistice terms were nevertheless punitive.  The Allies agreed to an armistice only on the basis that Germany effectively disarm herself, thereby preventing the latter from renewing hostilities.

The Allies' armistice terms were presented to German negotiators on 8 November 1918; alarmed at the severity of the terms the Germans lodged formal protests before reluctantly signing at 5 a.m. on 11 November; the armistice was to come into effect six hours later, at 11 a.m.

President Wilson shortly afterwards announced details of the armistice to Congress, and further celebrated the agreement in a Thanksgiving Address at the close of the month.

The Coming of the First German Emissary as Reported by the French Captain at the Outpost at Chimay

Notice had reached me that an envoy might arrive and that fire had ceased in our sector.

About 3 o'clock in the afternoon a German lieutenant appeared.  He was magnificently turned out and magnificently mounted, and had an escort of two men.

I met him about a hundred yards in front of our lines, and he wished me to go back with him to meet the plenipotentiaries.  I told him I could not leave my command; and at first he made some demur, the idea of those with him being that a French officer should accompany the plenipotentiaries from the other side of the line.

I assured him there would be no firing in the sector, that the plenipotentiaries could cross the line in safety, and that I would receive them at my post of command.

"This gentleman is an officer," he said to the men with him, "and as an officer I can accept and trust his word."

Five o'clock was the time fixed for the arrival of the delegates, but at that hour no one arrived, the mission, as is known, actually making their appearance considerably later in the evening, when they at once proceeded on their way.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

"Gas Bag" was a slang term for airships.

- Did you know?

Primary Docs