In early November 1918, with their forces in disarray on the western front, insurrection in Berlin and the economy on its knees, the German high command realised that the time had come to admit defeat.
So, at 5am on 11 November – after three days of negotiation – a German delegation signed the Armistice in Allied supreme commander Ferdinand Foch’s railway carriage in Compiegne. The agreement they signed would, six hours later, end one of history’s bloodiest conflicts.
After four years of slaughter, the British and French were in no mood to let Germany off lightly. So among the terms of the Armistice were the demands that the Germans give up all territories they’d occupied during the conflict, hand over thousands of pieces of military hardware (including virtually their entire navy) and promise to pay the victors substantial reparations.
In 1940, as a symbolic gesture, Hitler used the same carriage for the signing of France’s surrender to his Nazi regime.