An unhappy admiral

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph at the beginning of November, Alistair Lexden revealed a hitherto little-known account of how the Armistice at the end of the First World War came to be brought into force at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. He provided a slightly fuller version in a letter published in The Spectator magazine on 17 November.

Sir: The happiness felt by the dancing Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, supreme allied naval commander, on Armistice Day (The Spectator’s Notes,10 November) was short-lived.

He did not receive the grant of £100,000 which Parliament awarded all the other First World War commanders; while they received earldoms, he got a mere barony, for which he was made to wait a year. He told his family these misfortunes were the result of disobeying Lloyd George, who had instructed him ‘to arrange that the Armistice should commence at 2.30 p.m. in order that he might announce it in the House of Commons between 2.45 p.m. and 3 p.m.’

According to his account, Wemyss telephoned George V and got him to tell the government that  the 11th hour would be a far better time to bring the Armistice into effect. ‘When he reported to the prime minister and cabinet  on 19 November, he was shocked to find them ungrateful and vindictive.’

Alistair Lexden
House of Lords