News of the end of the war on 11 November 1918 came suddenly. Many soldiers, including senior commanders, had expected the war to continue well into 1919. Unknown to most, negotiations had begun a week earlier.
On the evening of 7 November a German peace delegation crossed the front line in a convoy of motor cars and were escorted through the war-ravaged regions of northern France. Before dawn, the delegation boarded a train which took them to a secret meeting place, a railway siding in a forest at Compiègne, north-east of Paris.
Over the next three days, the Germans sought to negotiate concessions but French and British senior commanders held firm. They refused a German request for a ceasefire and instead demanded Germany’s complete disarmament: the surrender of weapons, vehicles, ships, guns, and the withdrawal of all German forces from the occupied territories in France and Belgium.