ONE hundred years ago, the Armistice to end the war to end all wars was signed in a Wagon Lits carriage in a forest clearing north of Paris.

It was signed in the Forest of Compiegne and came into force at 11.00am, Paris time, on November 11, 1918.

The carriage was built in 1914 as a dining car for Compagnie Internationale des Wagons Lits et des Grands Express Européens, the luxury train operator. In 1918 it was taken out of passenger service and converted into an office for Field Marshal Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander.

The train, which formed Foch’s headquarters, was located in a secret siding in the forest. The German delegation, was taken to the siding to negotiate the Armistice. In reality they could do little but accept the Allies’ terms in full, apart from one or two detailed points.

The railway carriage became a French national monument. In September 1919 it was donated to the Musée de l'Armée, Paris and put on display from 1921 to 1927.

However, at the request of the Mayor of Compiegne, the carriage was restored and returned to Compiegne as the centrepiece of a specially built museum, part of the Glade of the Armistice historic monument on the site of the signing ceremony.

Yet on 22 June 1940, in an act of supreme revenge and humiliation for the French, after the German’s blitzkrieg attack and capitulation of the French Army, Hitler demanded the armistice the French had requested would be signed in the same railway carriage, on the same spot as the 1918 armistice Germany was forced to accept.

After the 1940 signing the carriage had been displayed in Berlin. But when the demise of the Third Reich became inevitable it was taken to Thuringia, in central Germany and eventually stored in a huge tunnel system. Just before the final German collapse, SS troops dynamited the carriage before it was reached by advancing US troops, presumably to prevent the double humiliation of it being used again for the signing of a German surrender.

In 1959 an identical railway carriage, taken from the same 1913/14 construction batch, was fitted out as it was in 1918 and placed as a permanent memorial where the original had been, in the clearing in the Forest of Compiegne. It remains there today as a museum.