Auctions | September 3, 2014

Sheet of Blotting Paper Used on WWI Armistice Document for Sale at Bonhams

A sheet of blotting paper bearing imprints of the signatures of Admiral Wemyss and Marshal Foch on the Armistice document which ended the First World War on 11 November 1918 is to be sold at Bonhams First World War Centenary Sale in London on 1 October. It is estimated at £20,000-30,000.

Admiral Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, the First Sea Lord, and Marshal Foch, Commander in Chief of the Allied Armies, signed the Armistice on behalf of the Allies in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne at 5 a.m. on Monday11th November 1918. The paper used to blot the ink on their signatures was kept by Captain John Marriott, Naval Assistant to Admiral Wemyss during the negotiations held at Compiègne between 7th and 11th November. It is accompanied by an inscription from Weymss attesting to its authenticity.

Also included with the lot are letters from Marriott to his wife written while the negotiations were underway. Acutely aware that he was witnessing a moment of history Marriott wrote on 9 November, "Here we are out in the middle of a lovely forest on a beautiful day. The Boche is in a similar train about 200' off & we await the reply to our armistice terms which have gone to Germany. We had 2 meetings y'day & I have never seen a more miserable lot of men, I feel they know the game is up and are terrified of Bolshevism. They say they are very hungry in the Country & badly in need of everything.

“War is a Godless business and I do so hope we shall finish it all by Monday. We shall be here possibly till then but one never knows anyhow, after this business we are off home again. It is a historic meeting this without a doubt & I shall never forget it, please God we pull it off & as far as I can see I think we shall..."

In a separate document Marriott sets out a full account of these momentous events and recalls the moment when he was instructed to phone Buckingham Palace. “...At 5 a.m. orders were issued to cease hostilities at 11 a.m. afloat, ashore and in the air. I was told by Admiral Wemyss to ring up BUCKINGHAM PALACE and inform HIS MAJESTY; the line was dreadful and I must have been cut off about 30 times but finally got Charles Cust and informed him. I also told 10 Downing Street,  We then had a glass of port and went for a walk in the Forest which was wonderfully soothing after our busy night..."

The Head of Bonhams Book Department, Matthew Haley, said, “The sheet of blotting paper is a fascinating piece of history in its own right but just as valuable I think are the letters and recollections of Captain Marriott who wrote with great awareness about the momentous events unfolding around him.”