Armistice Negotiations

On the 8th November, 1918, a convoy of seven staff cars carrying a German negotiating team wended their way across northern France to Foch's headquarters in a railway carriage at Compiegne. They took the scenic route - the trip taking several hours longer than necessary as the route meandered across Belgium and northern France. The devastation the war had wrought on France and Belgium was thus brought home, and left the Germans in no doubt as to what their reception in Compiegne would be like.

No minutes were taken in the negotiations, and so much of what was said there is now lost to time, but the icy reception given to the Germans by Foch was well known. He only appeared twice to speak, receiving them with the words "Qu'est ceque vous desirez, messieurs?" (What do you want, gentlemen). The Germans were surprised to learn that there would in fact be no negotiations, only demands. The only input the Germans had was to correct a few impossible terms - such as the demand to decommission more submarines than the German Navy actually possessed. Shocked at the harshness of the terms, the Germans protested, but Foch coldly echoed the words of Bismarck at the negotiating table of the defeated French in 1870 - Guerre c'est la guerre - War is war.

Throughout the negotations, the Allied armies continued their assaults without respite. The German chancellor Friedrich Ebert, who had suddenly been given control of the nation when Ludendorff and Hindenburg gave up dictatorial control a month ago, with revolution imminent and Germany disintegrating beneath his feet, implored the negotiators to sign immediately, before it was too late, which didn't help their bargaining position when the French got wind of it.

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