AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR


The Armistice was agreed at 5.10 –
in Foch’s personal railway carriage
– among the cigar and brandy fumes.
The Chancellories of Europe knew
thirty minutes later. Big Ben was rung
for the first time in four years and gas lamps
lit in Paris. There was dancing and streamers.

Foch insisted the truce would not take effect
until 11.00 – ostensibly
so the news could be keyed and carried to
each trench and dugout on the Western Front.

Thousands of soldiers were killed that morning.
The last to die – at 10.59 –
was Private Henry Günther from Baltimore,
advancing with comrades in ignorance
through the wild woodland of the Argonne.
The division’s history records: ‘Almost
as he fell, the gunfire died away
and an appalling silence prevailed’.

 

 

 

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