My Travel Blog

Clearing of the Armistice – The Site That Ends Wars

Of all the historical sites that I have visited the site known as the Clearing of the Armistice may be the most memorable.  This nondescript patch of gravel in the middle of the Compiegne Forest where King Louis XV enjoyed hunting is neither beautiful, impressive nor majestic.  It’s what took place there on November 11, 1918 and June 22, 1940 that makes it so important.

This memorial with the Allied sword holding down the fallen German Eagle sets the tone for your visit.

In 1918 the clearing did not exist.  In fact the forest was so dense aerial observation was impossible.  All there was, were two railway tracks that were part of a gunnery rail system that was used for moveable heavy gun platforms.  The German delegation arrived on one track and Marshal Foch whose title was Marshal of France arrived in his mobile headquarters on the other track. The Armistice was signed in the Marshal’s headquarters, which brought an end to WWI.  Foch’s rail cars were then placed in a small museum, built at the site, to memorialize the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918.

On June 22, 1940 virtually the same ceremony took place, but in reverse.  Adolf Hitler and his generals showed up in their train, and the French delegation was required to take Foch’s mobile headquarters out of the museum, and place it exactly where the Armistice of November 11, 1918 had been signed.  After the signing Hitler took Foch’s train back to Berlin.  The allied bombing of Berlin ultimately destroyed Marshal Foch’s mobile headquarters, and so they could not be returned to the Clearing of the Armistice.

This is how the site looks today, and in 1940.

In the small museum where Foch’s mobile headquarters were originally housed is now a replica of his rail cars.  Along with various memorabilia there are a number of pictures that were taken on June 22, 1940.  What I found to be so eerie was that the site looks the same as it did in 1940.  I mean nothing has changed.  The really creepy part was to see pictures of Hitler walking around the clearing, and knowing that you had stepped in the same spot as the Third Reich.

This granite slab marks the exact spot where both the 1918 and 1940 armistice were signed. The museum in the background is where the replica of Marshal Foch’s headquarters is housed.

If you decide to make the trip to Compiegne to visit the chateau or to see Chateau de Coucy then take the extra time to visit the Clearing of the Armistice.  It’s a short drive, and well worth your time.

While cruising the canals or France you have to keep a sharp lookout, or you might run into a fallen tree.

This Frenchman took a liking to Lisa.

We always carry treats for our four legged friends that we meet along the canals.

-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave”  and “When Stones Speak”– 
Chuck Palmer Adventure novels

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About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.