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First World War home page Aftermath
The quest for a 'just peace'
Counting the costs
Britain after the war
The British Empire after the war
The legacy of the war outside the British Empire
Remembering The First World War
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Quest for a 'just peace'

While armistice talks took place on the various military fronts in the autumn of 1918, the fighting continued. On the Western Front, where the Allied commanders feared that a premature armistice would allow Germany to renew the war in 1919, the conflict lasted into early November. Fierce battles on the Italian Front continued until as late as 27 October, when British and Italian troops crossed the River Glossary - opens new windowPiave and the Austrian army finally collapsed. In two remote regions - Albania and East Africa - the Central Powers were still carrying the fight to the Allies weeks after the last armistice had been signed.


Suing for peace
 

The first of the Central Powers to sue for peace was Bulgaria. The terms of the armistice agreed with the Allies on 29 September 1918 included the evacuation of Bulgarian troops from all Greek and Serbian territory and Allied occupation of certain strategic points within Bulgaria.

Armistice talks between British and Turkish negotiators began on 26 October on a British warship stationed at Glossary - opens new windowMudros, a port on the Greek-owned island of Lemnos. The agreement signed four days later forced Turkey to demobilise its army, open the Glossary - opens new windowDardanelles and Glossary - opens new windowBosphorus to Allied shipping and evacuate its Arab provinces.

On 3 November, with Vienna close to revolution and the Habsburg empire in tatters, Austria, too, signed an armistice. Fighting on the Italian Front stopped a day later.

Negotiations for the final armistice, with Germany on the Western Front, began in the forest of Glossary - opens new windowCompiègne on 9 November 1918 - the same day that Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and Germany was declared a republic. The leader of the German delegation, Glossary - opens new windowMatthias Erzberger, pleaded in vain for lenient terms. The armistice that came into effect on 11 November ordered the immediate German evacuation of Belgium, France, Luxemburg and Alsace-Lorraine, the Allied occupation of western Germany and the emasculation of the German army.

Terms of the armistice - opens new window
The terms
of the Armistice
Transcript

 

The Armistice:
Winston Churchill
Loudspeaker - opens a new window

 


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Paris peace conference
Treaty of Versailles - opens new window
Treaty of Versailles
Transcript

Although separate peace treaties were to be concluded with all of the defeated powers, the Glossary - opens new windowParis peace conference, which opened on 18 January 1919, was dominated by wrangling over Germany's future. In both Britain and France, there were widespread calls for a punitive peace settlement.

The German delegation was in a hopeless negotiating position. Not only were parts of Germany now under Allied occupation, the Allies - at the insistence of the French - continued to enforce the Glossary - opens new windowtrade blockade until the peace treaty was signed. Belated British signs of a less vengeful approach, expressed most clearly in Lloyd George's Glossary - opens new windowFontainebleau memorandum in March 1919, were summarily dismissed by the French delegation.

After much protest, and conscious of the 'overwhelming force' arrayed against it, Germany signed the Glossary - opens new windowTreaty of Versailles with the 27 'Principal Allied and Associated Powers' on 28 June 1919. Under its terms, Germany accepted (along with its allies) sole responsibility for the outbreak of war in 1914. It lost territory to its east and west, as well as all of its colonial possessions, and was required to pay Glossary - opens new windowreparations to the countries it had attacked. The German army, navy and air force were all disbanded.

Among the Allied delegations in Paris, critics of the treaty's severity - such as the British economist Glossary - opens new windowJohn Maynard Keynes - constituted a small minority. In Germany, where few had accepted the reality of defeat, Versailles was regarded as an indelible stain on national honour.


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Other peace treaties
 

None of the other peace treaties was quite so controversial. With the Habsburg empire long since defunct, the Glossary - opens new windowTreaty of St Germain (10 September 1919) confirmed Austria's losses to Italy, Romania and the newly formed states of Czechoslovakia, Poland and Yugoslavia. A nine-month Communist dictatorship in newly independent Hungary delayed - until 4 June 1920 - the signing of the Glossary - opens new windowTreaty of Trianon, by which the Hungarians lost land to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. In the meantime, Bulgaria had signed the Glossary - opens new windowTreaty of Neuilly (27 November 1919), ceding territory to Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia.

The last of the peace treaties, the Glossary - opens new windowTreaty of Sèvres with the newly formed republic of Turkey, was signed on 10 August 1920. However, the Turks quickly reneged on promises of autonomy for the Glossary - opens new windowKurds and independence for Glossary - opens new windowArmenia and, in August 1922, recaptured control of Glossary - opens new windowSmyrna, given to Greece two years before. The boundaries of western Turkey were thus not finally resolved until the signing of the Glossary - opens new windowTreaty of Lausanne in July 1923.


Further research

The following references give an idea of the sources held by the The National Archives on the subject of this chapter. These documents can be seen on site at the The National Archives.

Reference
Document
CAB 21: Various material on the Paris peace conference, 1919.
CAB 29: Various material on the Paris peace conference, 1919.
FO 211/517: Peace treaties between the Allies and the Central Powers, 1919-20.
GFM 3/2080: Various material on the German delegation at Versailles, 1919.
WO 106/412: Terms of the armistices agreed between the Allies and Austria-Hungary, Germany and Turkey, 1918.

 

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