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The Armistice Clearing in Rethondes

For lovers of history

Contrary to popular belief, the Armistice Clearing is located within the municipality of Compiègne and not that of Rethondes.  It was the site's proximity to the Rethondes railway station that led to its also being known as the "Clearing of Rethondes".

On 11 November 1918, it was here that the First World War Armistice was signed, bringing to a definitive end four years of armed conflict between France and Germany. This site was chosen for its practical location, as well as for its tranquillity, necessary for the carrying out of negotiations.

The Germans had constructed an auxiliary railway for the transportation of heavy artillery, branching off of the line linking Compiègne and Soissons. To this railway was brought Marshal Ferdinand Foch's "office carriage", for the Generalissimo of the Allied armies to meet with the German plenipotentiaries.

The original memorial site was created during the interwar period. A 250-metre-long promenade was first built, then the roundabout 100 metres in diameter, with an immense inscribed slab in its centre commemorating the German defeat.

In 1927, Foch's railway carriage was installed in the clearing, housed in its own special building, and in 1937, a statue of Marshal Foch was erected on the edge of the site.

But history is fickle, and on 22 June 1940, Hitler forced France to sign the armistice consecrating its humiliation in the very same carriage. The Nazis then destroyed the memorial site, bringing back to Germany the carriage and dismantled monuments, excepting the statue of Marshal Foch which was left untouched.

Following the Second World War, the clearing was restored between 1946 and 1950, with the original monuments recovered in Germany being re-erected. A carriage from the same series as the original was housed in a new building, also serving as a museum.

Did you know ?

The Armistice of 1918 was followed by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919, which imposed very heavy reparation payments on Germany. The colossal sums that the country was forced to pay the Allies played a major role in the Nazis' desire for revenge, which eventually led to their particular staging of the 1940 Armistice signing.

The carriage in which the Armistice of 1918 was signed belonged to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits and bore the number: 2419D. The carriage today on display comes from the same series and bears the number: 2139D. The remains of the original carriage can be seen in the museum room dedicated to the year 1940.

Hidden treasures

In the Armistice Museum, 700 stereoscopic images provide glimpses of the hellish life in the trenches during the First World War. Showcases display objects made by WWI soldiers, which demonstrate their inventiveness and creativity in the face of adversity. Finally, each of the armistices has its own dedicated exhibition room, with photos and objects illustrating these two key moments in the history of Oise, France and Europe.