The Glade of the Armistice

I never plan anything, never, which is why that it’s so unusual for this blog post to be appearing at such an appropriate time. This weekend, we remember the dead of two World Wars and I thought it might be fitting to tell you about the time I visited the Glade of the Armistice in Compiègne, France.

Earlier this year Liz and I were touring through France in our motorhome. Towards the end of our trip we were naturally moving further north towards Calais and our trip through Eurotunnel and back to the UK. We stopped in a place called Berny Rivière intending to visit another of our favourite restaurants. Sadly, the restaurant was closed and so we found somewhere to park up for the night and as the heavens decided to open up and drop a major rainstorm on top of us, we ate in.

We were parked not far from Compiègne where the armistice which ended the First World War was signed in 1918 so it seemed an opportune moment to visit The Glade of the Armistice.

The Glade is exactly that, a clearing in the middle of a forest. A series of what look to be tram lines curve across the glade to the site of the museum but still visible today, is the location where the armistice was signed, aboard a famous railway carriage in 1918. The railway carriage was designated 2419D and was part of Marshal Foch’s personal train. Foch decided on the spot for the surrender as he wanted to keep the negotiations away from the prying eyes of the press. The negotiations began on November 8th and were finally finished and the document of surrender signed at 5:45am on the 11th November, 1918.

The surrender came into force at 11am and fighting continued until that time with 2,738 men dying on the last day of the First World War.

The railway carriage went back into regular service for a while but was then attached to the French Presidential Train. Afterwards it was put on display in Paris until 1927 when it was returned to the glade at Compiègne.

The Second World War began in 1939 when Hitler and the Nazis invaded Poland. The railway carriage was still in Compiègne on the 22nd June, 1940 when Hitler ordered it to be brought out from its shed and back to the glade and it was there that he and his generals accepted the surrender of the French. Three days later the site was demolished on the orders of the Führer and the railway carriage was taken to Berlin. The statue of Marshal Foch was left standing intentionally, left to stand guard over a scene of devastation, a personal insult from Hitler to the Marshal who had died in 1929.

After the war, the site was restored by German prisoners of war and in 1950, an identical carriage was returned to the site. Carriage number 2439 was built with the same batch as the original and was also part of Marshal Foch’s train in 1918.

The carriage is housed in a small museum and when I entered early one Saturday morning I was the only visitor present. The staff asked me my nationality and when I stepped into the main area a recording began telling the story of the site in English. It was really fascinating and as I walked around, I started up my camera and took numerous pictures and video.

Outside in the Glade, the statue of Marshal Foch is still there and looks down on a beautiful clearing. It was a calm and peaceful place and it was strange to stand on the spot where Hitler and his Nazi cronies once stood.

Hitler can be seen on photographs and film footage from the time. He must have been overjoyed. He and his generals had done in 1940 what the Kaiser and his generals could not do in 1918 and defeated the Allied Armies. His joy only lasted a few short years. In 1945 he shot himself surrounded by the debris of a ruined Berlin.


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Cameras, Edits and Fish and Chips.

This weekend is Remembrance Sunday and there is a lot of stuff out there in the media about the sad events of war, in particular World War 1 which ended 100 years ago this week. I occasionally comment on social media threads about the war and sometimes even tag my video from earlier this year about my visit to various war cemeteries in France.

The other week I added a link to my video on a Facebook page. It wasn’t anything to do with war, in fact it’s a Facebook page for amateur video makers, like me, to plug their work and discuss the arts of video making. I actually got some good reviews there but one fellow video maker questioned the beginning of the film. What I had done was this; when I had started filming I was planning a film about motorhomes and travelling in France and at one camp site parked next to us was a very tasty motorhome with a big trailer. Straight away I envisioned a narration talking about the big motorhome as if it was ours, then cutting to our much smaller one and saying ‘oh well, we’ll take this one then.’ Not exactly hilarious but faintly amusing. Anyway, that’s pretty much exactly how the finished video starts off.

However, as I eventually produced a video about war graves and cemeteries, the rest of the narration is of a sad and sombre tone and the jokey comments didn’t really fit in, which is what my fellow Facebook video maker had noticed.

When I originally put the video together I just somehow didn’t pick up on that. Take a look below and see what you think.

It’s always great to finish my block of shifts at work and then I can look forward to my six days off. This week however I picked up a tummy bug and spent a lot of time lying about in discomfort, constantly running to the toilet. Why couldn’t I have got the bug on a work day, then at least I could have called in sick? Anyway, one thing I thought I’d do on my days off was to sort out that video; go back to my editing deck, cut out the offending phrase and the much bigger motorhome and just record another line, something more in keeping with the general tone of the subject.

This of course is where everything went wrong. I added the new line, but in doing so I somehow managed to delete everything else on the soundtrack. OK, no problem, I still had the original recording of the narration so I thought I could just add that. What I did the first time round was to save the voice over as short individual tracks so I could change things round and pace things to match the visuals. Now, many months later the tracks were staring back at me, track 1, track 2 and so on, all the way up to track 48 and I couldn’t remember what I had said on each track, plus every few minutes, courtesy of the stomach bug, I had to drop everything and rush to the bathroom. Yes, I think I’ll leave that edit for another day but thanks fellow video producer for bringing that to my attention . .

Prior to my work shifts, Liz and I decided to spend an evening driving through the Blackpool Illuminations. The very first Illuminations began in 1879 but didn’t become a regular event until 1913 and were an idea for extending the holiday season at this seaside resort. The lights run for about six miles along Blackpool promenade from Starr Gate to Bispham and consist, apparently, of over one million light bulbs. Anyway, it was a great opportunity for a fish and chip supper and for me to mess about with my video cameras and editing software. A little background music instead of a voiceover might be preferable me thinks . .

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