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Rumours of armistice in 1918

The Story


By November 1918, trench warfare has finally given way to a headlong pursuit of the retreating Germans. Canadian troops under Sir Arthur Currie are tasked with liberating Belgian villages such as Mons, where house-to-house fighting is fierce. Then a rumour spreads: the war is over! As we hear in this clip, the news seems too good to be true. Even when armistice is confirmed, the exhausted soldiers can barely comprehend the new reality: death one day, peace the next. 

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: Nov. 11, 1962
Guest(s): Georges Lecoq, C.H. Mitchell, R.G. Perry
Reporter: J. Frank Willis
Duration: 10:56
Photo: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/ PA-003538

Did You know?


• As the war wound down, the focus turned to liberating France and Belgium from the retreating Germans. The period of Aug. 8 to Nov. 11, 1918, was called Canada's Hundred Days. The Canadian troops spearheaded an eastward advance from Amiens through France into Belgium.

 

• The final destination for Canadian troops was the Belgian city of Mons, which was also the scene of the first battle between German and British troops in August 1914.

• In 1914, the British were forced to withdraw and the Germans occupied the town. But a peculiar legend emerged from the Battle of Mons — retreating British troops claimed to see the "angels of Mons," visions of St. George surrounded by angels and cavalry in the sky. (Skeptics attribute the vision to battle exhaustion, as well as a similar fictional story by Arthur Machen called The Bowmen published in the London Evening News soon after the battle.)

• In November 1918, following the Battle of Amiens, Canadian forces under Arthur Currie pushed into Mons to liberate the city. They were engaged in house-to-house fighting when the armistice was declared on Nov. 11.

 

• Canadian soldier George Price became one of the final casualties of the war. He was shot by a German sniper at 10:58 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, just two minutes before the war ended.

• Victor Maistrau, Bourgmestre (Mayor) of Mons, is said to have written the following of the Canadian entry into the city:

 

• "At five in the morning of the 11th, I saw the shadow of a man and the gleam of a bayonet advancing stealthily along that farther wall, near the Café des Princes. Then another shadow, and another. They crept across the square, keeping very low, and dashed north toward the German lines.

• "I knew this was liberation. Then, above the roar of artillery, I heard music, beautiful music. It was as though the Angels of Mons were playing. And then I recognized the song and the musician. Our carillonneur was playing 'O Canada' by candlelight. This was the signal. The whole population rushed into the square, singing and dancing, although the battle still sounded half a mile away."

 


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