Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Foch-Hindenburg Armistice Telegrams

Probably most of readers have heard of the Willy-Nicky (Kaiser-Tsar) telegrams exchanged at the start of the war, but might not know the matching set at the end of the war between Generals Foch and Hindenburg to set up the Armistice negotiations.  They're rather proforma, lacking entirely the intimacy of the Imperial cousins in the earlier set. They do, however, have an certain tone about them. Hindenburg in the opening document indicates he has been in communication with President Wilson but is apparently not aware there would not be American representation at the meeting.

Telegraph from Paul von Hindenburg to Ferdinand Foch, 12.30 a.m., 7 November 1918

German General Headquarters to the Allies' General Headquarters; the German Commander-in-Chief to Marshal Foch:

The German Government, having been informed through the President of the United States that Marshal Foch had received powers to receive accredited representatives of the German Government and communicate to them conditions of an armistice, the following plenipotentiaries have been named by it:

Mathias Erzberger, General H. K. A. von Winterfeld, Count Alfred von Oberndorff, General von Gruennel, and Naval Captain von Salow.

The plenipotentiaries request that they be informed by wireless of the place where they can meet Marshal Foch.  They will proceed by automobile, with subordinates of the staff, to the place thus appointed.

Telegraph from Ferdinand Foch to Paul von Hindenburg, 1.30 a.m., 7 November 1918

To the German Commander-in-Chief:

If the German plenipotentiaries desire to meet Marshal Foch and ask him for an armistice, they will present themselves to the French outposts by the Chimay-Fourmies-La Capelle-Guise road.

Orders have been given to receive them and conduct them to the spot fixed for the meeting.

Telegraph from Paul von Hindenburg to Ferdinand Foch, 1 p.m.,  
7 November 1918

The German plenipotentiaries for an armistice leave Spa today.  They will leave here at noon and reach at 5 o'clock this afternoon the French outposts by the Chimay-Fourmies-La Capelle-Guise road.

They will be ten persons in all, headed by Secretary of State Erzberger.

Telegraph from Paul von Hindenburg to Ferdinand Foch, 1.50 p.m., 7 November 1918

German General Headquarters to the Allied General Headquarters:

The Supreme German Command to Marshal Foch:

From the German outposts to the French outposts our delegation will be accompanied by a road-mending company to enable automobiles to pass the La Capelle road, which has been destroyed.

Telegraph from Paul von Hindenburg to Ferdinand Foch, 6 p.m., 7 November 1918

The German Supreme Command to Marshal Foch:

By reason of delay the German delegation will not be able to cross the outpost line until between 8 and 10 o'clock tonight at Haudroy, two kilometres northeast of La Capelle.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923


  1. Such momentous words.
    ("By reason of delay" - I'd like to use that phrase elsewhere.)

  2. An excellent historical fiction novel of the events is Thomas Keneally's "Gossip from the Forest - A Novel". He is the author of "Schindler's List". Well worth reading.

  3. Which telegraph line was used? Switzerland, Stockholm or was a separate line kept open throughout the war?

  4. Yes, which line was used? What other communications may have gone on? I had just last night been rereading the infamous Nicky-Willy telegrams in The Fall of the Dynasties by Taylor. Excellent book, well written, and worth reading again if you haven't lately.

  5. Ah, the "plenipotentiaries" the very word reeking of privilege from men whose blood was never spilled.

  6. The above translations (from the original French versions) in Horne's book are not accurate, or complete, unfortunately. The messages were transmitted in clear Morse code so that both sides could pick them up. For more information see 'The Spa-Senlis Wireless Telegram Messages' at

  7. Excellent web site. Lots of helpful information here. I’m sending it to several pals ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks to your sweat! national archives military records