The Eleventh Hour

If I’ve been a bit fixated on the US midterm elections over the past week, I’ve also been a bit fixated on WW1 for the past year or more. For we are now just three days away from the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1 on 11 November 1918.

And yesterday I found out something remarkable about that day. I knew that the war ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. But it seems that it wasn’t actually supposed to end then. It was supposed to end at 2:30 pm that day. The story of what happened is recounted at 4 minutes and 58 seconds into the video below:

King George had been one of the first in Britain to know what time the war was going to end, because he had been telephoned earlier that morning by his schoolfriend the first sea lord Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, who had just signed the armistice for Britain in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiegne.

“As everybody knows, the armistice happened at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and that was what Wemyss signed. That wasn’t what he’d been told to sign. He’d been told to sign by LLoyd George an armistice which would come into effect at 2:30 pm on the 11th of November 1918. And those were his instructions. But he disobeyed his instructions for two reasons. One: The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month was poetry, and 2:30 pm on the 11th of November was not. And also he said if we fight on for another 3½ hours thousands of people may get killed. He then returned to Paris and rang up the King and told him what he’d done, and the King spread the word about as quickly as he could, and so by 11 am there were vast crowds in front of Buckingham Palace, and the King and Queen came out onto the balcony and were the heroes of the hour. By 2:30 pm Lloyd George was wanting to stand up in the House of Commons and announce the fact and pull his watch out of his pocket, and everybody was meant to have said Good On Lloyd George and vote him back into power at the next general election, but nobody was there at all. They were all getting wildly out of control in front of Buckingham Palace.  So Lloyd George was very angry indeed, as were other members of the cabinet. And they censured Wemyss for having done this, and they were quite unpleasant to him when he got back to London on the 12th of November. He couldn’t believe that they all looked very gruff and glum and unpleasant, and he thought that was incredible pettiness. And they also didn’t give him a peerage like they gave everybody else who’d been in charge of the services. And they didn’t give him 100,000 pounds, which they gave to everybody else who’d been at that rank.  A 100,000 pounds then is about 5 million pounds now. So his determination that thousands of people shouldn’t get killed between 11 am and 2:30 pm on the 11th of November, and his wish to be poetic about it, cost him 5 million pounds.”

What an extraordinary story! But I wonder if there might be yet more to it than that. When did Lloyd George instruct Wemyss to end the war at 2:30 pm? Wemyss was a friend of the King, and it seems quite likely that Wemyss told the King about the designated time of 2:30 pm almost as soon as Lloyd George had told him, and that the King and Wemyss hatched a plan to steal a march on the politicians in Westminster. Why do such a thing? Because the royal family were very worried about their popularity, given the overthrow of the tsar of Russia the previous year, and the abdication of the German Kaiser the day before (9 November). Crowned heads were toppling all over Europe, and the British royal family feared they would be next. What better way to boost their popularity than to appear before cheering crowds on the balcony of their palace to announce the end of the war? How long does it take to get hold of a large crowd?

And was it simply “incredible pettiness” on the part of Lloyd George and his cabinet? Having knowledge of important events shortly before they happen can allow people to buy and sell stocks and shares at good prices before anyone else. You might, for example, want to buy shares in arms industries just before a war starts and their value increases, and sell them just before it ends, and their value decreases. So Lloyd George and his cabinet were probably planning to sell off shares in arms industries on the morning of the 11th of November, and buy shares in peacetime industries. But when they arrived at the stock exchange they found that the armistice had already been announced. Wemyss had cost them a fortune. And that was why they were determined to cost him a fortune in his turn.

In addition, if Lloyd George and his cabinet had lost a fortune, it’s very likely that the King and his friends made themselves fortunes that day. And because Wemyss was in on the plot, he quite likely made one too. And that was another reason why Lloyd George saw no reason to award him anything.

Aside from that, I didn’t know that they’d all been awarding each other peerages and hundreds of thousands of pounds at the end of the war. Did the common soldiers, who had actually done the fighting, get given anything? Apparently not:

£19, that’s the account of that. I’d served my seven years.

And of course it was poetic for the hour to be the 11th hour, rather than 2:30 pm. Why couldn’t Lloyd George have thought of that himself? Perhaps he did, but he wanted to announce the event in Parliament, and 2:30 pm would have been the time he was scheduled to speak.

There seem to be lots of these sort of documentaries around these days. Another three part series that I watched yesterday was The Long Shadow. And this looked at the consequences of WW1 in Britain during subsequent years. All men over the age of 21 gained the vote, and so did women older than 30. And much else happened as well.

P.S. Link: The Armistice began at on 11th November 1918 at 11am (French time) – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The Armistice itself was agreed 6 hours earlier at 5am with the first term of it being that fighting would end at 11am.

About Frank Davis

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7 Responses to The Eleventh Hour

  1. garyk30 says:

    Fighting should have stopped at 5am,

  2. RdM says:

    You might find these and related links interesting.–peter-jacksons-very-personal-war-film-rewrites-our-relationship-with-the-past

    “They Shall Not Grow Old will screen in cinemas around New Zealand on Sunday, Armistice Day, marking 100 years since the war’s end.

    Beyond that, Sir Peter hopes it’s studied for generations to come: copies have already been distributed to every school in the UK.”

    Reactions have been positive, emotional. I’ll try to see it at a cinema myself, else await DVD.

  3. RdM says:

    ” They Shall Not Grow Old comes out in cinemas across New Zealand on Sunday, 100 years to the day that young men and tired old soldiers laid down their weapons for the last time.

    The film finishes on a bitter note, the heartbreaking words of veterans who came home to find that the sacrifices and suffering that we so rightfully laud them for today had to a large extent passed by ignored.

    That thankless disdain is as shattering as any moment from the trenches and leaves open the question that, for many, history is still yet to answer – what was it all for?”

    (from the last lines of the newshub article above)

    Meanwhile, the smoking in cars fine tipped wedge edge is being tried out here again >

    Smoking with children in cars: ‘Ban it. Stop it. Move on it’ – Children’s Commissioner

    He’s been (IMHO) duped by a pathetically weak ‘study’ from the zealots at Otago University.

    Link later…

    But this needs action, uncritically on its way to be accepted (wisdom? knowledge? Pull the other one!) unless it is acted against, spoken out about…

    Have to gird the loins, then … and actually write and publish, present, arguments against, why this would be a very bad act against personal freedom.

    And provide evidence!

    Where next shall, would the State intrude?
    At home, what you feed your offspring, what you teach them, can consume around them?

    Meanwhile, the gravy train keeps pumping out results, like

    Enough to drive one to drink, despair, or through all that, to a furious accomplished and successful denouncement, and to see some real change and enlightenment happening.

    And reversal of previously held positions.

    My prayer…

  4. RdM says:

    “The Armistice began at on 11th November 1918 at 11am (French time) – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. “

    I note that, never mind the inconveniences of Daylight Saving Time or indeed the fact that we’re 12-13 hours apart, for convenience (and fair enough!) NZ will mark the centenary of the Armistice at 11am our time, Sunday morning.
    That’ll be 10pm Saturday night UK time.

    A unique time to be in the smokydrinkybar, perhaps?
    2 minutes later there will be “a cacophony of joyful noise”.

    Since I live within earshot of church bells, let alone what else, maybe there will be something.

    Perhaps I’ll turn up the stereo.
    What to play?

    Perhaps Quincy Jones recreation of the Hallelujah! Chorus from his version of
    “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration”

    Nevertheless, a solemn time. For thought.

    Particularly with regard to smoking, enjoyment and utilisation of tobacco over hundreds of years, the culture and skills, arts, knowledge, scientific investigations that have accompanied that.

    And the continuing war, at least influence operations on it. Against it.

    But Hey !

  5. RdM says:

    I have a CD version of this, but just searching to try to reference it,

    For possibly the most authentic, accurate despite obviously off air to VHS and the watermark, depiction of the recording, this:

    Make full screen and turn up the volume anyway.

    Then there’s a tribute showing of it at least the soundtrack while showing stills of the artists involved.
    But also with a lengthy detailed description, if you expand it to More . . .


    “Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration” is a critically acclaimed gospel album by various artists, released in 1992. Executive produced by Norman Miller, Gail Hamilton and Mervyn Warren, it is a reinterpretation of the 1741 oratorio Messiah by George Frideric Handel, and has been widely praised for its use of multiple genres of African-American music, including spirituals, blues, ragtime, big band, jazz fusion, R&B and hip hop.

    The album received the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, as well as the 1992 Dove Award for Contemporary Gospel Album of the Year. In 1993, the various recording artists participating in the project were collectively nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Artist.

    This is the “Hallelujah!” chorus from that project which features an all star chorus: Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Patti Austin, Bernie K., Daryl Coley, Commissioned, Andrae Crouch, Sandra Crouch, Clifton Davis, Charles S. Dutton, Kim Fields, Larnelle Harris, Edwin Hawkins, Tramaine Hawkins, Linda Hopkins, Al Jarreau, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Lizz Lee, Dawnn Lewis, Babbie Mason, Johnny Mathis, Marilyn McCoo, Mike E., Stephanie Mills, Jeffrey Osborne, David Pack, Phylicia Rashād, Joe Sample, Richard Smallwood, Sounds of Blackness, Take 6, Darryl Tookes, Mervyn Warren, Thomas Whitfield, Vanessa Williams and Chris Willis. Arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones.

    For this video, I’ve featured photos of some of the artists that performed on this song.

    LYRICS: (for this rendition)

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
    For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.


    For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    The kingdom of this world
    Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
    And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
    And of His Christ!
    And He shall reign for ever and ever!
    And He shall reign for ever and ever!
    And He shall reign for ever and ever!
    And He shall reign for ever and ever!

    King of kings, (for ever and ever) and Lord of lords,
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    King of kings, (for ever and ever) and Lord of lords,
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    King of kings, (for ever and ever) and Lord of lords,

    King of kings, and Lord of lords,

    And He shall reign forever and ever,
    And He shall reign forever and ever,
    King of kings, forever and ever,
    And Lord of lords,
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    And He shall reign forever and ever,
    King of kings! and Lord of lords!
    King of kings! and Lord of lords!
    And He shall reign forever and ever,
    Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
    Forever and ever …


    ~ RdM

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