On the 11th of November, 861 British and Commonwealth soldiers were killed. Now most of us will never have heard of any of the men killed on this day, but I would like to bring just two of their names to your attention. The first is a man called George Ellison and the second: George Laurence Price. Why? Because on the 11th November 1918, just half an hour before the Armistice came into effect, Private Ellison was killed, making him officially the last British Soldier to be killed in the Great War for Civilisation; 1914-1918. The Second man; George Laurence Price, was killed at 10.58, 2 minutes before the war ceased, became the last Commonwealth soldier killed in the Great War.
Private George Ellison; 5th Royal Irish Lancers.
Ellison was born and lived at 49, Edmund Street, Bank, Leeds, he was the Son of James W. and Mary Ellison. Early in his life, he joined the army as a regular soldier, but had left by 1912 when he got married to Hannah Maria Burgan and had become a coal miner. Sometime just before the outbreak of war he was recalled to the army, joining the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, serving in the army at the start of the war. He fought at the Battle of Mons in 1914, and several other battles including the Battle of Ypres, Battle of Armentières, Battle of La Basee, Battle of Lens, Battle of Loos, and Battle of Cambrai on the Western Front. He was killed an hour and a half before the armistice, on a patrol on the outskirts of Mons, Belgium.
Private George Price; 28th ‘Northwest’ Battalion Canadian Infantry (Saskatchewan Regiment)
He was born in Falmouth, Nova Scotia, on December 15, 1892, and raised on Church Street, in what is now Port Williams, Nova Scotia. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, when he was conscripted on October 15, 1917. He served with “A” Company of the 28th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. On November 11, Pte Price was part of an advance to take the small village of Havré. After a crossing of the Canal du Centre into the town of Ville-sur-Haine under German machine gun fire, Price and his patrol moved toward a row of houses intent on pursuing the machine gunner who had harassed their crossing of the canal. The patrol had entered the house from which they had thought the shooting had come, but found the Germans had exited through the back door as they entered the front. They then pursued into the house next door and again found it empty. George Price was fatally shot in the region of his heart by a German sniper as he stepped out of the house into the street, against contrary advice from a house occupant, at 10:58 a.m., November 11, 1918. He died just 2 minutes before the armistice ceasefire, that ended the war, came into effect at 11 a.m
Now there are other soldiers I should name here as well:
USA: Pvt Henry Gunther of Baltimore, MD, Company A, 313th Infantry, 79th Division of the US Army: Died 10.59 11/11/1918 Officially, Gunter was the last man to die in World War One. His unit had been ordered to advance and take a German machine gun post. It is said that even the Germans – who knew that they were literally minutes away from a ceasefire – tried to stop the Americans attacking. But when it became obvious that this had failed, they fired on their attackers and Gunter was killed. His divisional record stated:
“Almost as he fell, the gunfire died away and an appalling silence prevailed.”
FRANCE: Augustin Trebuchon from the 415th Infantry Regiment. He was a runner and was in the process of taking a message to his colleagues at the front informing them of the ceasefire. He was hit by a single shot and killed at 10.50. In total, 75 French soldiers were killed on November 11th but their graves state November 10th. Two theories have been forwarded for this discrepancy. The first is that by stating that they died on November 10th before the war had ended, there could be no question about their family’s entitlement to a war pension. The other theory, is that the French government wanted to avoid any form of embarrassment or political scandal should it ever become known that so many died on the last day of the war. [http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/november_11_1918.htm]
Augustin Trébuchon was born at Montchabrier (near Le Malzieu-Ville in the Lozère) on 30 May 1878, with four younger brothers and sisters. His mother died when he was young and his father nine years later. He had been in the army since the war began in 1914. He was a communal shepherd and played accordion at village marriages before volunteering for the army on 4 August 1914. He joined the 415th Infantry Regiment as a messenger. He had already served in the second battle of the Marne and at Verdun, Artois and the Somme before arriving in the Ardennes at the end of the war. He had twice been wounded, including badly in his left arm by an exploding shell. Upon his promotion to the rank of Soldat de Première Classe (Private First Class) in September 1918 it was said that he was “a good soldier having always achieved his duty, of remarkable calm, setting the best example to his young comrades.”
Trébuchon, as a messenger, knew an agreement had been signed before the rest of his unit. At Vrigne-sur-Meuse, in the Ardennes, the 163rd Infantry Division was ordered to attack an élite German unit, the Hannetons. General Henri Gouraud told his men to cross the Meuse and to attack “as fast as possible, by whatever means and regardless of cost”. It has been speculated that the attack was to end any possible hesitations by German negotiators at Compiègne, that Maréchal Foch believed the Germans were reluctant to sign and so ordered Général Philippe Pétain to press on across the Meuse.
Trébuchon was halfway between Sedan and Charleville-Mézières. Rain was falling and the Meuse was flooding. Its width was put at 70m. The temperature was well below freezing. Warfare had destroyed bridges across the river and sappers worked by night and in fog to build a plank footbridge across a lock. There had been no reconnaissance of the other bank because bad weather had kept the spotter plane on the ground. Around 700 men crossed the river a little after 8am, taking a telephone wire with them. Some fell in the river and the first deaths were by drowning.
The fog cleared at 10.30am and the French could see the Germans installed a little higher than them, a few hundred metres away. The French were spread over three kilometres between the Meuse and a railway line. The Germans opened fire with machine guns. The French sent up a spotter plane now that the fog had lifted and the artillery on the other bank could open fire without fear of killing their own side. Darkness fell again at 6pm and the battle continued until news of the armistice arrived.
The last of the 91 French soldiers to die was Trébuchon, “with a red hole in his right side”, probably a figure of speech as this expression comes from Arthur Rimbaud’s very famous poem “Le Dormeur du Val” (The Sleeper in the Valley). He was 40. He fell near the railway line with his message still in his hand. It read “Rassemblement à 11h 30 pour le ravitaillement – “Muster at 11.30 for food.” The armistice followed and the French withdrew without honouring their dead.
GERMANY: Lieutenant Tomas: After 11:00, he approached some American soldiers to let them know that, since the war was over, he and his men were vacating a house and it would be available. Unfortunately, no one had informed the Americans of the Armistice and they shot him.