Telegram announcing the armistice ending the First World War, 1918. Archives New Zealand. ACHK 16598 G43/2.
On 11 November 1918, the Armistice of Compiègne was signed between the Allies and Germany. An armistice is an agreement to stop fighting, and it was negotiated that the armistice would be declared at 11 a.m. on that day. Leading up to this agreement, armistices had also been signed indicating the surrenders of Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria-Hungary.
The telegram was sent from London to Wellington to tell New Zealand that the war was over. It arrived late on 11 November, so the news was officially announced on the morning of 12 November with signal guns, messages in the daily newspapers, and a speech by the Governor-General. The armistice had been anticipated, and there were plans in place to celebrate as soon as the news was received. People had been so eager to celebrate that a “false armistice”, started by a rumour, had meant some premature celebrations on 8 November.
No New Zealanders were signatories to the Armistice of Compiègne. When the Treaty of Versailles, the formal end to the war, was signed nearly a year later, New Zealand signed in its own right rather than as a part of the British Empire. New Zealand later became an equal member of the League of Nations, the organisation formed to prevent another great war.
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Possible discussion questions
What information is in the header of this document? What do the stamps on this document tell us?
Why do you think this document was so significant to the people in New Zealand?
Why was the armistice important? How did it change the relationships between New Zealand and the other countries involved in the First World War? How did it contribute to this country’s change in its sense of identity?
In what ways was the end of the war celebrated in New Zealand?
What are some other documents important to our nation? How do they contribute to our heritage? What are the reasons for their importance?
This country’s seat on the League of Nations is an important part of our heritage. What are some other groups that New Zealand belongs to today that contribute to our sense of national identity?
Have you ever made an agreement with someone you were fighting with? How did it change your relationship? Was the agreement successful?