This Remembrance Day, we take a few minutes from our day to pause, reflect and remember …
Excerpt from Anzac Sons: The Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars
On 9 November, as the Australians were preparing to return to the front, the Kaiser abdicated. Revolution and the proclamation of a republic had ended his reign as Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia. He fled to the Netherlands and never returned to Germany.
On the night of 9 October the German armistice delegation crossed the line in northern France. On 11 November, in a railway carriage at a forested siding at Compiegne, the armistice was signed. It was 5.00 am. In six hours all hostilities were to cease. A global catastrophe had finally ended.
At 11.00 am the armistice took effect. All operations on the Western Front abruptly stopped. An eerie silence settled on the killing fields. The slaughter was over. The Australian soldiers, expecting soon to return to the front line, remained where they were. An air of disbelief pervaded the ranks.
For the troops who had been consumed by the grinding slaughter of the war, peace appeared beyond comprehension. Many could not understand what peace really meant. A deathly silence hung in the air that for four long years had reverberated with the roar of artillery, the chatter of machine-guns and the cries of the wounded and dying. The reality of peace must have been difficult to comprehend. Allan wrote home, continuing to reassure his family that Percy, now billeted south-west of Amiens at Sorel, would remain out of the line. Perhaps for Allan an end to the war was simply too good to be true. He had heard stories of the war coming to an end before, and may have assumed that this was yet another wild furphy.
The 38th Battalion diary simply recorded:
Telegram received from Brigade at 7.45 stating that the Armistice had been signed. Training proceeds.
The following day, little had changed:
Training as per syllabus[i]
While the devastating war had truly ended, it left the darkest of legacies in its wake. The number of lives lost could never be accurately determined. Historian John Terraine suggests that the estimates of 12 million lives are far less than the actual number.[ii] Another 20 million were listed as wounded. This was a tragedy on a scale that beggars belief. What is certain is that, of the total Allied battle casualties, Australia suffered 64.8% killed or wounded, proportionally the highest of all Allied fighting forces. According to Charles Bean, of the 416,809 men who enlisted, 331,781 fought and of these 59,342 were killed with another 152,171 men wounded.[iii] Some were wounded time and again…
Such a tragedy, such an enormous sacrifice. Remembrance Day 2020 … may we never forget …
[i] AWM 4 23-55-1 Part 1, p. 61.
More information about the Marlow brothers and their response to the Armistice can be found in: