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By summer, 1918, the war had been going for four terrible years
and the end seemed nowhere in sight.
Unless we can look ahead and plan for 1919,
we shall be in the same melancholy position next year as we are this.
Do the means of beating the German armies in 1919 exist?
Have we the will power?
Since spring 1918, the Allies on the Western Front
had been battered by German offensives.
But in August, the Allies secretly assembled a strike force
in northern France.
100,000 men of the Australian and Canadian Corps
were backed by 400 tanks...
three cavalry divisions.
General Sir Henry Rawlinson,
British commander at the Somme in 1916, had learnt from the past.
He embraced new ideas.
The close combination of men and machinery.
The importance of achievable goals.
My only difficulty will be to get enough divisions
and to keep the thing secret.
Rawlinson aimed his assault at a weak 12-mile sector
of the German line, east of Amiens.
He had the French in support to the south.
General Erich Ludendorff, joint commander in chief of the German army,
neither knew of an attack, nor feared one.
We wish for nothing better than to see the enemy launch an offensive.
100,000 infantry stand grimly, silently.
All feel to make sure their bayonets are locked.
The section officer counts the last seconds.
The speed was terrific.
Within a few moments of the Huns running from our tanks and infantry,
our guns were coming up into new forward positions.
It was glorious to be in the rush of an advance.
The Allied attack sent the Germans reeling.
By nightfall, Rawlinson's 4th Army had advanced eight miles.
They killed and seriously wounded 9,000 Germans
and captured 18,000 more.
Ludendorff declared 8th August the "Black Day of the German Army".
General Paul von Hindenburg steadied him,
but both knew the Battle of Amiens was the beginning of the end.
Mighty as Germany looked on the map,
her armies on the Western Front were near the end of their tether,
exhausted, hungry, fed up.
Their generals had given them neither clear aims, nor adequate supplies.
The Germans had lost nearly a million men since March.
Ludendorff blamed the home front for spreading defeatism.
I was told of behaviour, which I openly confess,
I should not have thought possible in the German army.
Whole bodies of men had surrendered to single soldiers.
Germany's problems went beyond poor morale.
She had lost a string of vital battles.
The battle of the factories and technology.
Germany had built just 20 tanks, the Allies, over 4,000.
She had lost the battle of manpower.
A quarter of a million Americans were pouring into France every month.
She had lost the battle of command.
The Allies worked together under the leadership by Marshal Ferdinand Foch.
But Ludendorff's generals despaired of his lack of strategic plan,
and some feared for his mental health.
Great crisis this morning, very nerve-racking.
Ludendorff is a bundle of nerves. It's never his fault.
He looks everywhere for scapegoats.
After Amiens, Foch orchestrated a series of attacks
up and down the German lines -
first French, then British, now American.
The Germans fell back under the rain of blows.
While the Allies pulled together, the Central Powers were tearing apart
In Austria-Hungary, a third of a million soldiers had deserted.
The people at home were starving.
The multi-ethnic empire was splintering,
its Poles, Czechs and Bosnians
saw defeat as their chance to pursue independence.
In mid-September, the Austrian Emperor Karl told the Kaiser
he wanted to negotiate with the Allies.
The Kaiser begged him not to.
I cannot refrain from expressing astonishment and sorrow
that you even think of this.
You must know how destructive this course of action is.
But Karl had already sent his proposal for talks to the Allies
and they just threw it back in his face.
Another great empire allied to Germany was dying.
The 600-year-old Ottoman Empire was a spent force.
Britain was driving the Turks out of Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria.
They were now fighting for their lives, not for Germany.
Then the third link in Germany's alliance chain started to give way.
Germany needed Bulgaria to hold the Balkan Front.
But by September 1918, a huge Allied force had gathered in Macedonia.
If the Bulgarians folded, the Allies' way would be clear to Austria-Hungary
The Bulgarians were dug into these trenches, their morale cracking.
Crown Prince Boris was almost attacked by his own soldiers
when he visited the front.
We are naked, barefoot and hungry.
An empty knapsack does not guard a frontier.
The First World War had begun in the Balkans,
with Serbia as the tinderbox.
Now, as part of the Allied force, she was in at the kill.
And for the Serbs it was personal.
In 1915, the Bulgarians had helped kick them out of their homeland.
Here was the Serbs' chance for revenge.
The heavy artillery made the Bulgarians crawl into shelters.
Excitement made my hair stand on end, my blood was up.
The Allies smashed through the Bulgarian lines and rolled north.
On 28th September, Bulgaria sued for peace.
When he heard this, Ludendorff suffered a fit,
collapsing to the floor, foaming at the mouth.
The next day, he learned the Allies had breached the Hindenburg line
along the St Quentin Canal,
Germany's last fixed line of defence on the Western Front.
Two days later, on 1st October,
Ludendorff summoned his senior staff to his headquarters in Spa.
Among them, Colonel Albrecht von Thaer.
Ludendorff stood up. His face was pale and full of deep worry.
He said it was his duty to tell us
our military condition was terribly serious.
Bulgaria has already been lost.
Austria and Turkey are both at the end of their strength.
Any day now, our Western Front could be breached.
Therefore, the Supreme Army Command demands
that a proposal for bringing about peace be made without delay.
Ludendorff's stark decision to ask for an armistice - or cease-fire - was a terrible shock.
Generals quietly sobbed.
When Ludendorff left the room, Thaer followed him.
I grabbed his right arm with both hands and said,
"Your Excellency, can it be true?
"Is that the last word? Am I awake or dreaming?"
I was completely beside myself.
He remained calm and gentle and said to me with a deeply sorrowful smile,
"Unfortunately, that is how it is, and I see no other way out."
To the German people in October 1918,
the prospect of an armistice seemed heaven-sent.
A great sigh of relief escapes from the lips of the tormented nation.
"This means peace" you can hear at every corner of the streets,
and "Peace" smiles in the eyes of every shop girl
in the baker's or grocer's
Germany's soldiers had kept her politicians in the dark
about the string of military disasters.
So the news that they wanted an armistice came as a bolt from the blue.
The deputies were absolutely broken.
Ebert turned white as a sheet and didn't utter a single word.
Another looked as if he'd had an accident.
The secretary is believed to have left the room, saying,
"The only thing left to do is to shoot one's self in the head."
But peace talks were still a way off.
First, the terms of the cease-fire would have to be settled.
Germany approached US President Woodrow Wilson,
asking him to broker the armistice with the Allies.
They chose him because he had already proposed a peace plan - the 14 Points.
French PM Clemenceau was unimpressed.
The good Lord has only ten.
Wilson's points were an idealistic package of liberal principles,
including rights to national self-determination
and a League of Nations to watch over it all.
Germany believed Wilson would secure a fair deal for them on this basis.
We are ready to be just to the German people,
to deal fairly with Germany, as with all others.
To propose anything but justice to Germany would be to renounce
and dishonour our own cause.
But Wilson also insisted Germany had to admit defeat and democratise.
Britain and France did not want to talk about a new world order
until the war was over.
While the politicians argued, the fighting raged on.
Germany's U-boats continued to sink Allied ships in the Atlantic.
And as her armies retreated across France, they looted and laid waste.
14-year-old Yves Congar had kept a diary throughout the German
occupation of his home town of Sedan.
He longed for freedom,
but dreaded the price the French would have to pay for it.
So here it is,
the great moment we've spent four years waiting, hoping, begging for.
And yet it brings with it the horror of bombing,
gas, fire, perhaps death.
We may never see friends again,
many might be killed, the town destroyed.
Our one great hope is an armistice.
The First World War did not go quietly.
The final months were more lethal
than the trench war of past years had been.
Men now had to leave the safety of trenches and cross open ground,
with little place to hide from sweeping machine-gun and shellfire.
British casualties in autumn, 1918 were higher than those a year before,
during the terrible battle of Passchendaele -
the epitome of trench slaughter.
And the closer to peace, the harder it was to bear the losses.
It was a slaughterhouse,
just a mass of mangled flesh and blood.
Bob's head was hanging off.
You couldn't tell which was Harris and which was Kempton.
What was left of them was in pieces.
We knew the enemy was beaten.
After three years in France and the end so near,
Harris, who had left a young bride, killed.
Jimmy Fooks, whose time was nearly up, killed.
Kempton, who also was due for leave, killed.
General Haig had seemed careless with his men's lives
at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Now, he argued for stopping the war without a total defeat of the Germans
The British alone might bring the enemy to his knees,
but why expend more British lives, and for what?
French General Charles Mangin insisted this would only store up
trouble for the future.
No, no, no! We must go right into the heart of Germany.
The Germans will not admit they were beaten.
It is a fatal error and France will pay for it.
But, with winter setting in,
any invasion of Germany would have to wait till spring 1919.
By then, the Germans might have renewed their strength.
Marshal Foch believed France would get what she wanted by negotiation.
No need to battle on to Berlin.
So the Allies set out to achieve on paper
what their armies had not done in the field -
obtain Germany's unconditional surrender.
Foch chose to meet the Germans in Compiegne,
45 miles north-east of Paris,
in a secluded forest through which a railway line conveniently ran.
In his train, on 8th November, Foch handed the armistice conditions
to politician Mathias Erzberger, leader of the German delegation.
Erzberger was visibly shaken by the terms Germany would have to accept
just to obtain a cease-fire.
Germany would have to evacuate Belgium and France,
surrender her fleet and pay compensation.
The Allies would continue their blockade, disarm the Germans
and occupy the left bank of the Rhine.
Germany was being forced to capitulate.
Meanwhile, the country Erzberger represented was falling apart,
its cities swept by revolution.
The German people, exhausted by war and hunger,
wanted democracy in and the Kaiser out.
But it was the German army which forced the Kaiser to abdicate.
He asked his generals to turn the army against the people,
but the generals refused.
The army will return home in good order under its generals,
but not under the command of Your Majesty.
It no longer stands behind Your Majesty.
The Prussian dynasty of Frederick the Great was over.
The next day, the Kaiser slipped into exile in Holland.
He would live long enough to hear Germany had beaten France in 1940.
He never accepted that, in 1918, his army had been defeated.
For 30 years, the army was my pride.
Now, after 4.5 brilliant years of war, with unprecedented victories,
it was brought down
by a stab in the back from the dagger of the revolutionaries
at the very moment when peace was within reach.
Most Germans rejoiced at the news that the Kaiser had gone.
I felt as if a heavy weight had suddenly been lifted from my heart.
This definitely means the armistice will be signed.
Back in the forest at Compiegne,
Erzberger now represented the German Republic.
At 5am on 11th of November, he signed the armistice.
Hostilities temporarily cease 11:00 today
when all offensive action will cease.
Present outpost line to be maintained and no troops to pass
east other than road etc reconnaissance and working parties.
No conversation with enemy to be allowed.
The most remarkable feature was the uncanny silence.
The war was over.
Peace and safety was a new thing. It could not be grasped in a moment.
A dreadful blow. I was just beginning to enjoy it.
No more slaughter.
No more maiming.
No more mud and blood.
No more shovelling bits of men's bodies and dumping them in sandbags.
No more writing dreadfully difficult letters to next of kin of the dead.
A strange and unreal thought was running through my mind.
I had a future.
It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
A great cheer arose all along the line.
We could hear the men a thousand yards in front raising holy hell.
The French, behind our position, were dancing, shouting
and waving bottles of wine.
We were stupefied to see crowds of Boches
running over between the minefields,
their hands up and yelling like mad.
They were crazy for cigarettes and chocolate.
We had burned rice our boys wouldn't eat and they fell on it like wolves.
Our soldiers were choked with emotion.
I thought about my family,
about all the women of France...
..except those who are alone and who cry.
One great wave of joy swept round the world
and found its way to every nook and cranny.
No-one was more delighted than our African soldiers,
who cheered themselves hoarse.
Everybody came out, disabled old men, old women in slippers
and housewives, leaving lunch on the stove.
I wept with joy. 5,000 Indian soldiers lit their torches.
The hilltops burst into fire with scores of bonfires.
I found myself arm in arm with soldiers I had never seen before.
I forgot where we went, toured the streets, and sang and sang.
The significance of what it means was overwhelming -
People whose lives were shaped by the war went home,
people the world did not yet know.
Ernest Hemingway, Bertolt Brecht,
Harold Macmillan, Vera Brittain,
Charles de Gaulle, Josef Tito, Benito Mussolini,
David Ben-Gurion, Mustafa Kemal.
And one of the most insignificant of them all, for now, Adolf Hitler.
The German armies in France and Belgium headed home.
How we had looked forward to this moment.
We used to picture it as the most splendid event of our lives.
And here we are now, humbled, our souls torn and bleeding.
But we can be proud of our performance.
Never before has a nation, a single army, had the world against it
and stood its ground.
We protected our homeland.
They never got into Germany.
In mid-December, 1918, the first German troops arrived in Berlin.
The people welcomed them as an army with no cause to feel ashamed.
The men wore green laurel wreaths over steel helmets.
The machine-guns were garlanded with green branches.
Many a soldier had a child or sweetheart
on his flower-wreathed horse.
A feeling of confidence, of fresh hope in the future
seems to have returned with the troops.
Germany's new Republican chancellor
Friedrich Ebert reinforced the dangerous illusion
they were not beaten in this war.
I salute you who return unvanquished from the field of battle.
The Allies were in no doubt who had beaten whom.
Allied troops moved into Germany and began their watch on the Rhine.
The German fleet was surrendered to Britain,
and the Allies travelled to Paris to dictate the terms of the peace.
US president Woodrow Wilson crossed the Atlantic
to put his idealism to the test.
We have used the great words "right" and "justice".
Now we are to prove whether or not we understand them
and how they are to be applied.
But the world had not stood still
between the end of the war and the start of the peace talks.
On 22nd November 1918,
the Belgian King Albert came home in triumph to Brussels.
Occupied lands had been won back.
The French repossessed Alsace-Lorraine.
What a moving welcome!
The people were so happy and smiling.
Some were pale and cried while they greeted us.
They speak pure French. They really are French, all those locals.
We were treated like victors, like saviours.
These scenes confirmed that France and Belgium
had been liberated from an evil grip,
that this was a victory for the Allies.
And in eastern Europe, new nations arose out of shattered empires.
They didn't wait for the peace conference
to bring self-determination.
They tore down all signs of foreign rule and put up new frontiers.
Poland carved a vast territory out of Germany and Russia.
Czechoslovakia took land from Austria and Hungary.
And Serbia realised the aim she had started the war over
by founding her own Slav super-state.
The peace talks would recognise these new nations -
they did not create them.
27 countries met in Paris to divide the spoils and define the peace.
The losers were not invited.
We are going into these negotiations with our mouths full of fine phrases
and our brains seething with dark thoughts.
The big decisions were made by the Council of Four -
Prime Ministers Orlando of Italy, Lloyd George of Britain,
Clemenceau of France, and US President Wilson,
All liberals, but with different agendas and forceful personalities.
Arguments between Lloyd George and myself were so violent
Wilson interposed between us with outstretched arms,
saying pleasantly, "I have never come across such unreasonable men."
Clemenceau wanted Germany restrained for the sake of French security.
Orlando wanted more territory for Italy.
Lloyd George looked beyond Europe to safeguard the British Empire.
Wilson wanted his new world order, with justice and democracy for all.
But, first, there was the little matter of settling the war
and that would force Wilson to compromise his ideals.
The Big Four did not go into the talks
planning to pin guilt for the war on Germany.
But when they realised how much the war had cost,
they looked for someone to foot the bill.
France owed billions to Britain and America for financing her war.
Britain couldn't afford to waive the debt and America wouldn't,
so the Allies turned to Germany.
She could only be made to pay if she accepted blame for the war,
so the Allies included a clause pinning guilt on Germany.
German accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies
for causing all the loss and damage to which the allied,
and associated governemnts,
and their nationals have been subjected
as a consequence of the war imposed upon them...
by the aggression of Germany and her allies.
On 7th May, 1919, the German delegation came to collect the treaty
expecting an even-handed settlement
infused with Wilson's sense of fair play.
They were horrified by what they read -
440 articles beating Germany into submission.
The Germans protested so vehemently,
particularly against the requirement to admit war guilt,
that Lloyd George worried the Allies had gone too far.
A member of his own delegation, the economist John Maynard Keynes,
was openly critical.
Forcing Germany to pay could ruin Europe, politically and economically.
The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation,
of degrading the lives of millions, should be abhorrent and detestable.
But Clemenceau believed the terms were fully justified
and Wilson's line had toughened.
He had wanted to treat Germany fairly
but, as a liberal, he was appalled by the way she'd waged war.
And, as President of the US, he wanted America's loans repaid.
It is a good thing the terms should be so hard
so Germany may know what an unjust war means.
If the Germans won't sign, then we must renew the war.
Germany did sign, on 28th June 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles
five years to the day after the Sarajevo assassination
that had triggered war.
The settlement was far from perfect.
The much-touted principle that people should govern themselves
was not applied outside Europe and imperialism was condoned.
But Wilson achieved his goal,
the creation of the first global forum, the League of Nations.
In the event, the Allies wound up with the worst of both worlds.
The Germans paid little in reparations
and the League of Nations proved powerless to force them.
The Versailles terms left some Germans,
like future Nazi Rudolf Hess, smouldering with resentment,
with disastrous consequences.
The only thing that keeps me going is hope for the day of revenge,
however far off it may be.
I wonder whether it'll happen in my lifetime.
Marshal Ferdinand Foch felt the Allies hadn't been tough enough
and realised the world would have to go to war again.
This is not peace, it is an armistice for 20 years.
He got it wrong by just 65 days.
Men were killed in the war's final hours,
whose last letters did not reach home for weeks.
Men like Marius Saucaz who wrote to his father in Morocco.
if I were to die in a future attack, don't cry. There's no point.
I would only be doing my duty and would die, like many others,
for a noble cause, a great ideal.
I am proud to be your son and I want to tell you today,
because who knows what the future holds.
I love you more than I have ever shown you.
Love and kisses, Marius.
Around 10 million soldiers were killed in the war,
prompting Lloyd George's sardonic comment.
When I look at the appalling casualty lists,
I sometimes wish it had not been necessary to win so many victories.
The tidy rows of crosses sanitise the deaths.
They often cover mass graves,
with a man represented by the part that could be found and identified.
Verdun in France has a huge vault full of bones...
..some of the millions posted missing in the war,
the place and circumstance of their death unknown.
No-one is certain how many civilians died...
women, children and elderly caught in the mayhem of the Eastern Front
in the flight of the Serb nation in 1915,
in the Armenian massacres...
in occupied France and Belgium.
Then, in 1918, influenza broke out,
eventually killing 20 million
soldiers and civilians around the world.
20 million men were wounded by the war,
of whom several million were badly mutilated.
The French called one category the "gueules cassees" -
the "broken faces".
Some were given human masks to hide their wounds.
New faces, new legs, new arms.
New minds were more difficult.
No-one really knew what to do with the victims of shell shock.
Soldiers with a range of disorders were filmed,
including 19-year-old Private Preston - his memory blank -
responsive only to the word "bombs".
Over the decades, the suffering and dying and the sense of futile waste -
central themes in the war's poetry -
came to dominate our perceptions.
Come back, come back,
you didn't want to die.
And all this war's a sham, a stinking lie.
And the glory that our fathers laud so well
A crowd of corpses freed from pangs of hell.
MUSIC: Brass Band plays "Abide With Me"
But in its immediate aftermath, when memorials went up around the world,
the First World War was not seen
solely in terms of senseless slaughter.
Their designs and inscriptions defined the war in positive terms,
for defence against aggression,
for love of one's country,
So much hardship,
so much heroism
and now such overwhelming glory.
Anything after this can be no more than an anticlimax.
Germany too celebrated victory where she could.
A gigantic monument was built in 1927 at Tannenberg
to commemorate Germany's triumph over the Russians in 1914.
It was inaugurated by Field Marshal Hindenburg.
The war may have been lost, but the dead were proclaimed as heroes,
the struggle itself honoured.
Though the aim for which I fought was not to be achieved,
we learnt once and for all to stand for a cause
and, if necessary, to fall as befitted men.
Many Allied memorials spelt out the values felt to be at stake
during the war.
In the stained-glass window in Canterbury University, New Zealand,
the Central Powers are depicted as the dragon of brutality and ignorance
The Allied troops have humanity and justice on their side
and are naturally victorious.
The years after the war were defined
by the search for significance in the loss.
National symbols, like the Cenotaph and the Unknown Warrior,
helped answer the question in so many people's minds -
what did all the suffering mean?
In 1920, the body of an unidentified British soldier was exhumed in France
and transported home.
On 11th November, the unknown warrior was brought to Whitehall.
He did not seem an unknown warrior.
He was known to us all.
He was "one of our boys".
To some women, he was their own boy who went missing.
To many men wearing ribbons and badges,
he was "one of their comrades".
It was the steel helmet, the old tin hat,
lying there on the crimson of the flag, which revealed him instantly.
Herbert Thompson had lost his eyesight in the war.
He could not see the proceedings, but he could feel them.
There was ineffable sadness and melancholy,
yet a message of inspiration and hope,
as if the spirit of the unknown soldier
had whispered "Courage, brother. Hope on."
I felt with my comrades almost ashamed I had given so little,
while he who was sleeping by us had given all.
Vera Brittain had served in France as a nurse during the war.
She lost her fiance, two close friends, her only brother.
She went back in 1921.
At Amiens, we stood in the dimness of the once threatened cathedral.
We looked up with reminiscent melancholy
at the still boarded stained-glass windows smashed by German shells,
realising, with surprise, that in my mind,
anger and resentment had died long ago,
leaving only an everlasting sorrow and a passionate pity.
The First World War had achieved its basic aim
of containing German and Austrian militarism, at least for the moment.
It moved Europe from the age of empires to the era of nation states.
It gave eastern European peoples independence.
It gave a sense of national identity to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
It helped Russia become the first communist state
and launched America as a world power.
The ideas for which men fought have proved lasting -
democracy and liberalism, religious faith and nationalism.
But the First World War solved few of the grievances
over which it was fought.
We live with its unresolved consequences in the Middle East,
the Balkans, Ireland.
It wasn't the war to end all wars,
not just because it left dangerous loose ends,
but because it bequeathed the world a terrible message -
that war can affect change,
that war can fulfil ambitions, that war can work.
The battlefields were tidied up, or ploughed over or just abandoned.
But they held their grip on the soldiers who had fought on them,
on those who dared go back.
I saw again with a pang of anguish the trenches, damp and muddy,
and was surprised to have lived there for four years.
So moving because of the endless silence,
the gloomy, barren, deserted look.
Old churches pierced, chipped, ripped open,
and barbed wire everywhere.
Life resumes, things remain the same.
We are the only ones who have changed.