Lest we forget… 11th November is variously called Armistice, Remembrance or Veterans’ Day. But what is an armistice?
Truce Leaving Combat
On 11th November 1918, an armistice was signed to stop the fighting on the Western Front, and which triggered the end of the Great War (now known as World War 1). An armistice is an agreement, which specifically ends wars. It may not be the cessation of shelling, as indeed it was not on that November day over 100 years ago, but it sets out what the sides are trying to achieve. This armistice had to be extended several times while the parties continued to negotiate the fine detail. The formal end to the war was marked in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles.
Without wishing to be trite, an armistice acts a little like a letter of intent. It describes what the parties are trying to achieve, what actions they will take for the meantime, and how they might go about formalising their agreement.
A few years ago, the BBC created a series of short films about the impact of World War 1 on teenage soldiers. A great uncle of mine, Ernest Steele, volunteered while he was still 17 (very close to the current age of my youngest son). Although he was offered the chance to return home, he stayed and even tried warn his younger brother off joining up… Ernest wrote that he was only just old enough to stand the strain of war. Despite surviving the Somme, he was killed by a sniper just as the war was ending.