11/11/1918 – Lest we forget.
At 5am on the 11th November 1918 the Armistice was officially signed stating that a ceasefire in Europe and on the Western front would come into effect. They elected that the time for such a ceasefire could be no more memorable than 11am; The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The sad fact is that there were 11,000 more casualties on the 11th of November than there were on the D-day landings some 27 years later when the world was once again involved in bitter warfare. The message did not travel around the Western front very quickly and many soldiers were shot and killed after the ceasefire was in effect. It is rumoured that there are some graves in France that have the wrong years engraved on them as the military was too embarrassed to admit that men had been killed during a time of alleged peace.
Almost all of the allies launched assaults on the final day. The British, for example, chose to try to retake the town of Mons which they had lost on the opening days of the war in 1914. In the process they lost 2,400 men. A French commander received simultaneous orders on the last day of their campaign; at 9am attack and advance but at 11am ceasefire. The Germans lost over 4,000 men during their retreat.
There were allegations that over 6,500 lives could have been saved had there been a ceasefire as soon as the Germans had met Allied members in a railway carriage tucked in a French wood and first discussed a peace agreement. The Allies gave the Germans a long list of crippling demands both economic; the Germans were to take full responsibility for the war and pay reparations to everyone, and to reduce their military to simply be a small force to retain public order. This was proposed on the evening of November 8th. It took until 5am on the morning of the 11th for the Germans to respond and sign the agreement, 6 hours later the guns stopped firing.
After World War 2 Armistice day was renamed Veterans Day in the US in order to remember all fallen soldiers who have fought for their countries. It is often referred to as Remembrance day in the UK and there are major services held on the following sunday. (Today the 13th this year.) It remains a national holiday on the 11th in France and Belgium.
It is said that the last life to be taken prior to the 11am ceasefire was that of Pvt. G. Ellison. Although there are many different names on the internet this man was a Brit and below I have posted a link to Michael Palin who read a brief 1 minute piece about him. Pvt Ellison’s time of death cannot be confirmed but the BBC report suggests it was in the last hour and a half of the fighting whilst other reports suggest it was as heartbreakingly close as 10:59:49.
The final total for Allied (British Empire/USA/Japan/Romania/Russia/France/Italy/Serbia/Montenegro/Greece/Portugal)casualties stands at: 22,104,209
and the total for the Central Powers (Germany/Austria-Hungary/Turkey/Bulgaria): 15,404,477
This leaves the grand total at: 37,508,686 – we will remember them.