Armistice signed telegram

This is the telegram that informed New Zealand’s Governor-General, Lord Liverpool, of the signing of the armistice.

Germany and the Allied Powers signed the armistice in Compiègne, France at 5.20 a.m. on 11 November 1918, late afternoon in New Zealand. Official confirmation reached New Zealand some hours later. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, Walter Long, wired the Governor-General, Lord Liverpool, at 10.55 a.m. London time (10.25 p.m. in New Zealand): ‘MOST URGENT ARMISTICE SIGNED 5 AM THIS MORNING LONG’. The ceasefire came into effect five minutes later.

Massey later recalled that he and Liverpool did not receive ‘official confirmation’ until ‘about two o’clock in the morning’. They may have received the message belatedly, interpreted a subsequent message as the official confirmation – or chosen to say they had received it after midnight, which thanks to an earlier Cabinet decision meant it need not be released until 9 the next morning.

The New Zealand press later criticised the government for suppressing news of the armistice by censoring press messages. The news was circulating overseas by around 9 p.m. New Zealand time. Newspapermen argued that had they received the news then they could have published it in the morning papers – eliminating much ‘inconvenience and loss’ to the country’s ‘factory owners and business people’. In Australia ‘no such nonsense was attempted’, with news posted from around 7 p.m. (9 p.m. in New Zealand) following a cable from the United States.

The government had indeed censored press messages about the armistice – because of press and public criticism of the censor’s failure to withhold similar but false news a few days earlier. Rather than defend this decision, it focused on the official message, and the press eventually dropped the matter.

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