How did World War One end and what happened next?

World War One ended at 11am on 11 November, 1918.

This became known as Armistice Day - the day Germany signed an armistice (an agreement for peace) which caused the fighting to stop.

People in Britain, France and the countries that supported them celebrated.

People celebrate the end of World War One on a London bus

People celebrated on top of buses

In London, huge crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square to celebrate the end of war.

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Why did Germany lose?

At the start of 1918, Germany was in a strong position. Russia had already left the year before which made Germany even stronger.

A few events turned things around:

  • Britain and France counterattacked strongly after Germany's 'Michael Offensive' in March 1918.

  • The German Navy was on strike.

  • In April 1917 the United States joined the war against Germany.

Germany and her allies realised it was no longer possible to win the war.

The leaders of the German army told the government to stop. Kaiser Wilhelm, Germany's ruler, stepped down on 9 November 1918.

An illustration of the Allied flags promoting Freedom from World War One
Postcard with illustration of flags promoting freedom (circa 1917).

What was the Treaty of Versailles?

The leaders of the USA, Great Britain and France met in Versailles to decide what should happen next.

Germany, Austria and Hungary were not invited.

The agreement was called the Treaty of Versailles. Germany was shocked by it because:

  • They had to accept total blame for starting the war.

  • They could not join the new League of Nations, where countries worked together for peace.

  • Some places Germany used to own, like Alsace-Lorraine, were taken from them.

  • They were banned from having an army of more than 100,000 men and from having any submarines or an air force.

Original booklet from the signing of the Treaty of Versailles
Original booklet from the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

People in Germany were angry. The country had to pay 132 billion gold marks (their currency before the Euro) to repair the damages of war. They became poor because of this.

Germans taking a tank apart outside Berlin in 1919 as ordered by the Treaty of Versailles
1919: Germans take a tank apart outside Berlin, as ordered by the Treaty of Versailles. This tank is in fact a British tank, which the Germans had captured and used during the war.

What happened to soldiers after the war?

Many former soldiers still suffered from shell shock or were disabled. It was difficult to forget about the horrors of the war.

Back in Britain, training centres were set up to support ex-servicemen and retrain them in new jobs, such as cobblers, electricians and jewellers.

Their lives were never the same again.

A wounded soldier at a music class in London in September 1919

Where next?

How do we remember World War One?
What were the causes of World War One?
Quiz: What happened after World War One?
World War One