< back |

symbols, pettiness and pride

The pettiness and small mindedness of national leaders and the worst aspect of nationalism can be seen in the events in the forest of Rethondes where the armistice between Germany and Britain and France was signed in the early hours of 11 November 1918.

The same railway carriage in which the German delegation signed the armistice in 1918 was to feature 22 years later.

The German delegation outside their carriage. 1918

In 1940 Hitler insisted that the French surrender be signed on the same spot and in the same carriage which had been preserved as a memorial by the French.

"HERE ON THE ELEVENTH OF NOVEMBER 1918 SUCCUMBED THE CRIMINAL PRIDE OF THE GERMAN REICH. VANQUISHED BY THE FREE PEOPLES WHICH IT TRIED TO ENSLAVE."
The above is the text on a stone placed at the exact spot where the armistice was signed in 1918.
The spot can be seen on the right.

In 1940 Hitler insisted that the French surrender be signed on the same spot and in the same carriage which had been preserved as a memorial by the French.

After the French signed the surrender documents in 1940 everything except the statue of Foch was destroyed and the carriage was taken as a trophy to Germany but was later destroyed before the Allies arrived to prevent them reclaiming it. A replica of the carriage is now on proud display to visitors.
After the war the memorial park was repaired and reopened on 11 November 1950.
Included in the new scheme was a bronze sculpture of a sword striking down the Imperial Eagle of Germany. The inscription on the memorial reads:
To the heroic soldiers of France - Defenders of Country and of Right - Glorious liberators of Alsace and Lorraine.

It gradually became obvious to some doctors that that some men at the front were suffering from non-physical injuries from what became know as shell-shock.

Some doctors argued that the only cure for shell-shock was a complete rest away from the fighting. Officer were likely to be sent back home to recuperate but the army was less sympathetic to ordinary soldiers with shell-shock. Some senior officers took the view that these men were cowards who were trying to get out of fighting.

Between 1914 and 1918 the British Army identified 80,000 men (2% of those who saw active service) as suffering from shell-shock. many more soldiers with these symptoms were classified as 'malingerers' and sent back to the front-line. Some these committed suicide; some broke down under the pressure and refused to obey the orders, some deserted. Sometimes soldiers who disobeyed orders were shot on the spot, some were court-martialled. 304 British soldiers were executed.