Acrossroads at the heart of the Great War and a strategic department as the final rampart protecting Paris, Oise was also the first department to be liberated by the French and hosted the signing of the armistice in Compiègne, which subsequently became a symbol of victory and peace.
"Here, on 11 November 1918, the criminal pride of the German empire was VANQUISHED by the free peoples it had sought to enslave."
-Inscription on the so-called “vengeful slab” in the centre of the Armistice Clearing at Compiègne.
The “Rethondes clearing”, a peaceful place in the heart of the Compiègne Forest, suddenly entered the history books, symbolizing in the eyes of the entire world the end of the Great War hostilities, of four years of horrifying conflict.
The railway carriage used by Marshal Ferdinand Foch as his headquarters had been stationed in the clearing since the evening of 7 November, on a two-track rail line built by the French artillery during the war.
There, at 2:15 in the morning of 11 November, the Marshal received the Germans, who agreed to sign the armistice at 5:15 AM. The accord would come into effect on “the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11 o’clock”.
"Officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the Allied armies: after having resolutely stopped the enemy, you attacked without respite for months on end, with unflagging faith and energy. You have won the greatest battle in all of History and saved the most sacred cause: the world’s freedom. Be proud, for you have adorned your flags with an immortal glory. Posterity reserves for you its gratitude."
-Marshal Ferdinand Foch addressing the Allied armies, 12 November 1918.
While the original railway carriage was destroyed by Hitler following the vengeful armistice of 1940 (see p. 21), its duplicate reveals everything regarding this crucial moment, including where all the different figures were positioned at the time of signing. Next to the carriage, the Armistice Memorial Museum is home to nearly 800 black-and-white stereoscopic photographs, striking testimonials to the lives of the soldiers, to the mobilization effort, to Verdun and to the victory celebrations.
The Armistice Memorial, recently renewed, offers to the visitors a brand-new scenography! The museum’s emblematic Armistice Carriage boasts a redesigned staging, immersing visitors in an early-morning atmosphere, as on the dawn of the armistice signing, a 3D screening room for an immersive and moving testimonial, and an exhibition room dedicated to the famous home-grown aviator Georges Guynemer.
Peace honored in all languages
The city of Compiègne commissioned the artist Clara Halter to create this monumental sculpture in commemoration of the First World War centenary. This symbolic ring is engraved with 52 gilded translations of the word Peace. 1 ½ tonnes of patinated bronze facing Ferdinand Foch's railway carriage. A perfect circle 3.5 metres in diameter, symbolizing serenity and plenitude in the heart of this circular clearing. A magnificent reminder that while the world's nations have at times formed alliances of war, they can always choose to assemble for peace.
Clairière de l’Armistice – Route de Soissons à Compiègne : www.musee-armistice-14-18.fr/