The Guardian

Relief and reckoning: the first world war was over and Australia counted the cost

Patriotic fervour greeted Australia’s entry in 1914. By the time of the armistice on 11 November 1918, the country was marred by rancour

It was mid-afternoon on the east coast of Australia when allied commanders and their German counterparts, after meeting for several days at the forest of Compiègne in battle-devastated northern France, agreed to the terms that would end the first world war.

The Germans and British signed the Armistice of Compiègne between 5.12am and 5.20am on 11 November 1918, just as shift workers in the eastern coastal cities of Australia were heading home or into the pubs, and about lunchtime in the west.

The German surrender had been anticipated. Revolution was under way in its cities, and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, and Bulgaria, had already been eliminated from the war. The Australian prime minister, Billy Hughes, meanwhile, was the subject of often negative news reports while, stationed in London, he haggled and hectored the British PM, Lloyd George, over the terms of the forthcoming peace and Australia’s representation at the conference of Versailles.

Indeed, almost from the moment on 8 November when

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