German troops return from the front after the Armistice at Cologne in November 1918.
German troops return from the front after the Armistice at Cologne in November 1918. Australian War Memorial

Victory in sight as world waits

(As we approach the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day, we look back at that remarkable moment in time through the pages of The Morning Bulletin in 1918)

The Morning Bulletin, November 9, 1918.

Never, since the distant ages when it first began to throb, has the great heart of the world been so deeply stirred as it is today.

lt is not complete news of Germany's surrender that we publish this morning; but the one indubitable fact is that, after more than four years of war, waged on such a scale and with such desperation as the earth has never witnessed before, Germany, the heart and head of the Central European coalition which set out to dominate the world, has followed the example of her weaker partners, and with full knowledge of the drastic conditions imposed upon them, has hoisted the white flag.

There have been events fraught with momentous consequences to mankind in the past, but their development was slower and more obscure.

The Roman Conquest and the rise of Christianity were two great collateral movements, really complementary to each other in spite of their apparent contradiction, which permanently changed the destinies of the human race.

The victorious legions of Rome little suspected they were but the pioneers of a teacher, to them but a Galilean mystic, whose apostles proved in the end the true conquerors of the world.

It has been well said that one purpose runs through the ages, and it is not hard to link up the great war drama, now in its final act, with the Christian epic. Pan-Germanism was a new revolt against the Christian ideal, a reversion to paganism and the creed of brute force. This revival of an ancient and discredited faith, which the world has outgrown. was preached by German authors for years before it was brought to the test of war.

The test has been made and it has failed, and its failure proven that, in spite of its imperfections, mankind at large has not lost its grasp of the new and nobler conceptions of life which were preached in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago.

"We are not fighting to restore Belgium, but to restore the Ten Commandments,” interjected a member of the House of Commons, and that is really the sum of the whole matter.

Germany's acceptance of the armistice will mean that Christian civilisation has triumphed over German ambitions by different methods, it triumphed over the more sober and human use of Roman law and philosophy of the centuries long past.

That will be the general and undoubted result of the great war, and all details beside it are trivial.

There are those who are disappointed to think that the triumphal march of the Allied armies should be halted before the Germans suffer on their own soil something of the horrors which they have inflicted on Belgium and France.

DEVASTATION: Soldiers at a devastated French town in 1918.
DEVASTATION: Soldiers at a devastated French town in 1918. Australian War Memorial

The idea is a perfectly natural one, but requires only a little thought to prove its error.

The Allies are not fighting from mere lust, as the Germans have fought. Their object is to secure peace for the world, and to enforce such conditions upon those who have wantonly disturbed that peace, that it will be impossible for them to repeat the crime.

Another indispensable condition is that Germans must repair, so far as reparation is so able, the havoc which she has brought among the civilian population of the countries which she has ruthlessly invaded.

If the Allies can secure all their objectives, without further effusion of blood, which means the blood of the their own soldiers as well as those of Germany, then it is manifest that they are not justified in continuing the war for a single hour more than is necessary.

An armistice, which literally means but a temporary cease to hostilities, may easily prove to be the first stage of a lasting peace, and so is likely to be in this case.

Germany has lost all her allies, and even the Bolshevik worm has turned against her.

Her armies have been swept almost entirely out of France, and they are being steadily thrust backwards in Belgium, and in these engagements the Allies continue to capture large numbers of prisoners and huge quantities of war material.

In addition to this deadly external drain on her resources, Germany is bleeding internally. Her soldiers and sailors are becoming mutinous and her civil population is rising in revolt.

The rulers of Germany must be prepared to accept to accept harsh terms from Marshall Foch, and that means the end of organised military resistance and therefore the war.

There are doubtless troubling times ahead for the Allied diplomats before the final terms of peace are signed, sealed and duly enforced.

The war is virtually ended but mankind for many years to come will leave to gather, in sorrow and travail, its deadly harvest.

But gather it will, and the star of peace will once more shine its beam on a new-born world.

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