In a poignant reminder of the past, an audio recording from the end of World War I has surfaced, capturing the precise moment when the devastating conflict came to a halt. The cessation of hostilities, marked by the silencing of guns and bombs, is preserved in this remarkable piece of history.
When the guns fell silent — the last moments of WWI pic.twitter.com/ni6rPyzDJX
— Fascinating (@fasc1nate) February 6, 2024
The audio was created by the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), who used a technique known as ‘sound ranging’ to detect enemy artillery. The AEF’s sound-ranging section had a series of microphones set up along the front to capture the sounds of the war. These sounds were then recorded onto a piece of photographic film, creating a visual representation of the sound waves.
On November 11, 1918, at 10:59 am, the last shell was fired. And then, at precisely 11:00 am, there was silence. The Armistice had begun, and the guns fell silent. The audio graphically captures this transition from war to peace in a manner that written records or silent photographs cannot.
The Imperial War Museum in London, in collaboration with the sound production company Coda to Coda, transformed the sound ranging film into a digital audio file. The result is a haunting audio clip that brings a century-old moment back to life.
The audio begins with the normal sounds of war – the distant booms of artillery fire and the sharp cracks of gunshots. Then, as 11:00 am approaches, the noise gradually fades until there is nothing but silence. A few minutes later, the eerie quiet is broken by the sound of a bird song, a symbol of life persisting amidst the devastation.
This audio representation of the end of World War I serves as a stark reminder of the devastation caused by the war and the profound relief that must have been felt when the fighting finally ceased. It also underscores the importance of preserving such historical records, as they provide a unique and deeply moving insight into the human experience of war.