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At 05.10 on the morning of November 11th 1918, a German delegation led by Matthias Erzberger signed the terms of the Armistice under the watchful eyes of British and French officials.  


The British public was informed by an official communiqué issued from the Press Bureau at 10:20 am, when Prime Minister David Lloyd George announced: "The armistice was signed at five o'clock this morning, and hostilities are to cease on all fronts at 11 a.m. to-day." At 10:50 am, Marshal Ferdinand Foch issued the general order; "Hostilities will cease on the whole front as from November 11 at 11 o'clock French time The Allied troops will not, until further order, go beyond the line reached on that date and at that hour."


As news reached London, Big Ben rang out for the first time since the war began and, in Paris, gas lamps across the city were lit for the first time in many years. The time for the cease fire had been set at 11 am to allow time for word to spread along both the allied and German lines. However, a combination of communication failures and the will-full blindness of some commanders meant that an estimated 11,000 casualties occurred that day, more than the entire number of men killed, wounded or reported missing during the D-Day landings 26 years later.  


A significant number of these casualties occurred around Mons, the sight of the first engagement between British and German forces. One of these casualties was Private George Edwin Ellison, the last British soldier of the First World War to be killed in action. 


Census returns show that Private Ellison was born in York to James W Ellison and his wife Hannan Maria in 1878. He may have been a veteran of the Boer war as his Commonwealth Casualty War graves records give his service number as L /12643, suggesting he was indeed a pre-war regular who joined the army early in the 20th century. During his four years on the Front he had survived almost every type of warfare and fought in some of the worst battles of the war including the retreat from Mons, Ypres, Cambrai and Loos. He fought in the very first trenches, survived the first gas attack and witnessed the first tanks roll across the Somme.


On the morning of the 11th, Ellison, then serving in the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, was patrolling a section of woodland on the outskirts of Mons. He was struck by a single bullet at 9.30 am and died almost instantly making him the last British casualty of the war. Despite enduring four years of unimaginable horror, Ellison died only an hour and half before it was all over, never to return to his home at 49, Edmund Street, Bank, Leeds. He left behind his wife Hannah and son, James Cornelius, who was just 5 days short of his fifth birthday when his father was killed.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show Ellison was buried in the St Symphorien military cemetery, just southeast of Mons. His grave faces that of the Private John Henry Parr, the very first British Serviceman to be killed in the war only a matter of miles away from where Ellison was shot. 


Sadly, Ellison was not the last soldier to die that day. A number of American commanders, including General John J Pershing, died after the armistice had been signed.  At 10.45 another 40-year-old soldier, Frenchman Augustin Trebuchon, was taking a message to troops saying that soup was to be served at 11.30 after the peace, when he was killed and just minutes before 11am, to the north around Mons, a 25-year-old Canadian named Private George Lawrence Price was shot entering a cottage during fierce street fighting and, at 10.58, US soldier Henry Gunther was killed in a final charge and is recognised as the very last man killed. 


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by Susan on 9 Nov 2014 09:36 : Report Abuse
While I appreciate that the 'final casualties' were in the field of battle, it is well to remember the many thousands who died post the Armistice from injuries received during the 1914-1918 period, also the many thousands who died from Spanish Influenza.
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by Maureen G on 9 Nov 2014 10:14 : Report Abuse
Looks so easy on the T.V tracing ones ancesters, but we have been having dreadful trouble. Paid the cash to the RAF, they deny my father was in Europe. The fact that he had medals purporting to the fact that he had served in Europe, plus endng his life in Germany and buried in Munster , they still argued about it. My brother and I would dearly love to find out his service records. Can anyone help????
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by on 9 Nov 2014 11:09 : Report Abuse
My relative was wounded the day before the 11th November 1918 and had half his face blown off. He died in 1919 in a VAD in Devon.
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by Mrs Julia on 9 Nov 2014 16:51 : Report Abuse
Spare a thought also for those who made it home but whose lives were never the same. Either they could not cope with normal life, could not get a job, or had lost their family. It ruined marriages and health. But they lived and lived with that for maybe a few years or many but it never left them.
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by Gwen on 11 Nov 2014 13:20 : Report Abuse
My Grand Uncle Horace James Devenish moved to Canada to be with his Sisters, Joined the Canadian Lord Strathcona Horse, in the Armed Forces in 1915. Left Canada with the others and joined the forces in England (His Homeland) and was killed in the World War 1
I never knew this Uncle but have done some research on him to get to know about him, because, when my father was a young boy, and while Horace was living here, my Dad loved and talked about his Uncle and what they did together. <3

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by Maurice on 23 Nov 2014 13:39 : Report Abuse
It's particularly obscene that life endangering actions were continued when knowing the war was about to end, and we continued for reasons of small difference to negotiating position or just for glorification of officers. The men lost in those actions, as indeed in most of WW1, should be remembered with anger simply as murdered. Not as doing something that was actually necessary.