And At The Eleventh Hour The Guns Fell Silent

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || [];
function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);}
gtag(‘js’, new Date());

gtag(‘config’, ‘UA-115029161-1’);

H. G. Wells called the Great War or World War I the “war to end all wars.” We know that was a mythical false hope. Indeed, it can be rightly said that the Treaty of Versailles created the conditions that led, in no small part, to World War II.

The Armistice that ended the fighting on the Western Front went into effect at 11 am Paris Time on November 11, 1918. At that time, fighting was to cease. However, as I noted in a post a few years ago, fighting continued and men still died right up to until that time. Private Henry Gunther of Baltimore continued fighting to the end and was killed at 10:59 am as he charged a German machine gun nest. He was officially the last Allied soldier to die in combat.

Thus, this recording released by the Imperial War Museum in London is all the more eloquent as it begins with artillery fire and ends with the sound of birds singing. It comes from a recording made in the American sector near the River Moselle just before and after the eleventh hour.

So on this Veterans Day, the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending fighting in World War I, let us remember all those living and dead who served in our country’s armed services.

At The Eleventh Hour

Today, November 11th is Veterans Day. It is a day in which we honor all of veterans. To which I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all who have served in our armed forces.

However, this post will be about an earlier time. Before 1954, November 11th was known as Armistice Day. It commemorated the armistice which ordered the cessation of hostilities and ended World War I. The telegram below shows the orders received by Allied units on the Western Front.

Found on Tumblr

Thus, at “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, the war ended.

You would think that with the cessation of hostilities scheduled for 11 am that most soldiers and most units would do everything in their power to avoid any contact with the opposing forces. You would be wrong. There was still fighting that November morning and men still died.

The last British soldier to die was George Edwin Ellison who was shot while on patrol in Mons, Belgium at 9:30 am. He is buried near Mons and his grave faces that of John Parr who was the first British soldier killed in 1914.

At 10:45 am on the November day, Augustin Trébuchon became the last French soldier to die. Because the French were embarrassed for having sent soldiers into battle without knowledge that the Armistice would begin that morning, they listed the date of death as November 10th. This was corrected in 1998.

George Lawrence Price, a Canadian soldier, was killed by a German sniper at 10:58 am. He had been in a house near Ville-sur-Haine, France and had been warned about snipers in the area.

While the United States did not enter the war until 1917, we had the last soldier to die during WWI. He was Private Henry Gunther of Baltimore who died at 10:59am. Gunther was assigned to Co. A, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division.

From Obit of the Day:

Private Henry Gunther, of Baltimore, had learned of the planned cease fire at 10:30 a.m. He and his company remained pinned down by German machine gun fire waiting for the minutes to pass.

But in a surprise to his compatriots – and the Germans – Private Gunther scrambled out of his foxhole, rifle in hand, and began to charge the gun battery. The Germans pleaded with the 23-year-old to stop his charge reminding him that the war was soon to end but he continued running and firing his rifle. They had no choice but to return fire.

Private Henry Gunther died at 10:59 a.m. on November 11, 1918. The last soldier killed in action in the conflict later called World War I.

Although he never gave a reason for his actions, Pvt. Gunther was recently demoted from sergeant to private after a letter critical of Army life was intercepted by military censors. A German-American, he was already under some level of suspicion this did not aid his cause. He would tell his fellow soldiers that he wanted to “make good.”

Following his death Private Gunther was returned to the rank of sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. His body was returned home and buried in Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Baltimore.

More on Sgt. (then Private) Gunther can be found at the Baltimore Sun.

At The Eleventh Hour On The Eleventh Day

Today is Veterans Day. Up until 1954, it was known simply as Armistice Day. The change came about due to the efforts of WWII veteran Raymond Weeks who had the idea to celebrate all veterans and not just the veterans of WWI. Thus, I would like to give my thanks to all veterans, living and dead, for their service to our country.

Armistice Day which commemorates the end of WWI got me to thinking about my grandfathers. While neither served in WWI, I was able to find their draft cards.

My paternal grandfather, William Thomas Richardson, was a farmer and had four children when he registered for the draft in 1918. My father did not come along until 1919.

My maternal grandfather, John Francis Sheridan, was a tax assessor with the City of New York. He registered for the draft in 1917. He did not marry my grandmother until 1918 and my mother was born in 1919. My mother told me that he was always disappointed that he was turned down for service due to his eyesight.

If you look at the lower left corner of my Grandfather Sheridan’s draft registration, you will see a tab that reads, “If person is of African descent, tear off this corner.” I find it interesting that this is on the card belonging to my grandfather residing in New York and not the one residing in North Carolina.

I found these on Ancestry.com. Today it is free to search their military records collection. They have draft cards from WWI and WWII as well as US Navy ship muster rolls. If you want to do more in-depth searching on an ancestor’s US military background, you can get records from the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records.