Primary Documents - Kaiser Wilhelm II's Proclamation to the Army, 10 October 1918

Kaiser Wilhelm II In the wake of the Allied resurgence in the summer and autumn of 1918 - with the breaking of the Hindenburg Line in Flanders and in the Argonne - and with the sudden collapse of its own allies - the German High Command came to the conclusion that the war could not be won.

Consequently it recommended to a stunned Reichstag on 2 October 1918 that a peace with the Entente powers be negotiated, a message that was reiterated by Army Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg on the following day Kaiser Wilhelm II, sensing defeat, appealed on 6 October to the army to maintain their resolve in their "grave" hour, a call he subsequently repeated with greater urgency four days later.

As the month drew to a close and with the German public growing increasingly restless - revolution was less than two weeks away - the Kaiser appointed a new, reformist Chancellor, Prince Max von Baden, along with a more representative government.  He also freed numerous political prisoners, including Dr Karl Liebknecht who promptly called for a revolution.

Hindenburg - now without Erich Ludendorff who had resigned his position - contacted the Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch to open armistice negotiations on 7 November; the armistice was agreed four days later, by which time the Kaiser had been obliged to abdicate.

Reproduced below is the text of the Kaiser's appeal to the army dated 10 October 1918.

Kaiser Wilhelm's Proclamation to the Army, 10 October 1918

The hour is grave!

We are fighting for the future of the Fatherland and for the protection of the soil of the Homeland.  To that end we need the united action of the intellectual, moral, and economic powers of Germany.

On the co-operation of those powers our invincibility rests.  The will for defence must bind all separate views and separate wishes into one great unity of conception.

God grant us something of the spirit of the war of liberation.


Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

German losses at Messines were 25,000, of which 7,500 were taken prisoner.  British casualties were 17,000 killed or wounded.

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