Spa and Kaiser Wilhelm

Spa and Kaiser Wilhelm
Spa became German Headquarters from 8th March 1918 when Field Marshal Hindenburg with General Ludendorff arrived with the General Staff, a party of more than 800 officers, 3,000 men and 800 horses.
Kaiser Wilhelm
Emperor Karl I
Crown Prince Wilhelm
Crown Prince Boris of Bulgaria
Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg
General Erich Ludendorf
General Wilhelm Gröner
Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz
A short diary of events

Preparations were made for the arrival of the Kaiser who arrived on 12th March and was initially installed in the Château de la Faineuse. As the Kaiser arrived the final preparations for the German Spring Offensive were completed, it beginning on 21st March.
On 10th April the German Chancellor, von Hertling, arrived and stayed in the Château de Crawhez overlooking Lake Warfaaz.
As a result of the Peace Treaty signed with Bolshevik Russia, the Baltic States had become independent, as had Finland. On 21st April the Kaiser received a delegation from Estonia and Lithuania.
On 1st May a conference was held in the town attended by HIM Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary, Crown Prince Wilhelm, the Crown Prince Boris of Bulgaria and Admiral of the Fleet von Tirpitz. von Hindenburg gave an update on the military situation and on 7th Romania signed a Peace Treaty with Germany.
On 11th May the Kaiser invited the King’s and Grand Dukes of Germany to a conference, together with a delegation from the Sultan of Turkey with Chancellor von Hertling. On 12th a large parade was organised for a further visit by HIM Emperor Karl who arrived at the station in his Imperial train. The King of Saxony returned to Spa for a conference with the Kaiser on 17th and two days later HIM Empress Auguste Victoria of Germany arrived to join her husband.
On 14th August Kaiser Wilhelm held a Crown Council and shortly afterwards the Austro-Hungarian Imperial train returned to Spa Station, Wilhelm had summoned Karl for a conference. Wilhelm was furious with Karl who was attempting to secure a separate peace with the Allies and Wilhelm had just become aware of the secret talks. Karl was ordered to continue with the fight and cease peace talks, despite the fact the Allies had done little to encourage Karl to disengage and break the bond with Germany.
On 10th September Skoropadski, leader of the Ukrainians and Talaat Pacha, the Grand Vizir of Turkey arrived for a conference.
On 15th September the Bulgarians surrendered, the first of the Central Powers to collapse.
On 30th September Chancellor von Hertling offered his resignation that was accepted and Crown Prince Wilhelm came to discuss the military situation that was deteriorating rapidly and to look at any avenues of seeking a successful peace. On 1st October the General Staff requested that the German Government contact President Wilson of America to seek the Allied requirements for peace. Kaiser Wilhelm’s cousin, HRH Prince Max von Baden (eldest son and heir to the Margrave), was appointed Chancellor from 3rd October. The response from America demanded the end of the monarchy in Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey — a demand at the time that went to far. HRH Prince Max sent a telegram to President Wilson: “The German Government requests the President of the United States of America to take steps for the restoration of peace, to notify all belligerents of this request, and to invite them to delegate positions for the purpose of taking up negotiations. The German Government accepts, as a basis of peace negotiations, the Program laid down by the President of the United States in his message to Congress of 8th January 1918, and his subsequent pronouncements, particularly in his address of 27 September 1918.
In order to avoid further bloodshed the German Government requests to bring about the immediate conclusion of an armistice on land, on water, and in the air.
On 26th October General Ludendorff was replaced by General Gröner as Quartermaster-General.
The Kaiser, the Crown Prince and their retinue were determined to hang on and fight on to the end, despite calls for the Kaiser’s abdication to achieve an end to the war. On 3rd November HIM Karl of Austria-Hungary concluded an Armistice.
The German armies were being pushed back and the situation was becoming critical. Wilhelm sent out a message to all commanders on 4th November sending them his best wishes and that success was around the corner, they had to hand on. On 7th HRH Prince Max von Baden offered his resignation as a result of the demands made by the Socialists, however, the Kaiser retorted that it was his decision alone who accepted resignations and appointed Imperial Chancellors. Later in the day a train arrived in Spa with Matthias Erzberger and General von Winterfeldt for a rendezvous with Hindenburg and Gröner to discuss the conditions of an Armistice. Five cars left Spa with Erzberger, von Winterfeldt, Count von Oberndorff with Captain von Helldorff as interpreter and Captain Geyer as Secretary to meet with the Allies that would result in the signing of the Armistice on 11th.
Matter were moving fast — it must be remembered that communication was not perfect in 1918 with continuous delays in telephone calls and the gaining of accurate up-to-date information was difficult. On 8th Kaiser Wilhelm decided that he would lead his men back to Germany an re-establish order, however, Prince Max informed him that matters were deteriorating in Berlin and asked he relinquish the throne that was refused outright. The Spartakists and Communists were causing more problems and difficulties in Berlin and many of the major cities of Germany, including occupying key points in many of them.
King Ludwig III of Bavaria
King Friedrich-August III of Saxony
King Wilhelm II of Württemberg
Prince Max von Baden
9th November

Events see-sawed throughout the day, as decisions were being taken, events had changed both at the front and at home in Germany. The Kaiser was at the Hôtel Britannique when he agreed that he would abdicate as Emperor of Germany but would remain as King of Prussia, however, von Schulenburg from the suite of the Crown Prince persuaded him not to renounce the title. von Hindenburg and Gröner told Wilhelm that the German armies would march back home under their officers but would refuse to follow him or his command. Wilhelm responded that the Army would follow their oath of allegiance and ‘follow the flag’, Gröner (forever considered to be a traitor and coward by most Germans) demurred and told his Supreme Commander that he had been happy to follow in the good times that ‘following the flag was pure fiction’ and that he should go, and go ‘now’! By 2.00pm Wilhelm agreed that he should abdicate as Emperor, but was determined to remain as head of the Army and King of Prussia. Berlin was contacted only to be told that it was too late. The Chancellor had already announced the complete abdication of Wilhelm and renounced the succession of Crown Prince Wilhelm. HRH Prince Max von Baden resigned as Chancellor and his post was taken by the socialist Ebert — Prince Max’s father too had renounced his title and therefore Max no longer had a throne to inherit either. Wilhelm was understandably furious and responded: "I am and remain the King of Prussia”.Rear Admiral von Levetzow recorded: “Before the Emperor stood the Field-Marshal, General Gröner and General von Marschall being a little to one side. On our entrance the Emperor said: ‘Field Marshal, you will please repeat to Admiral Scheer what you have just said to me."
von Hindenburg replied: “The army and the troops are no longer behind His Majesty. There are no loyal troops left. Would to God, Your Majesty, that it were otherwise!”
Wilhelm replied: “If it is as the Field Marshal informs me, I cannot well allow myself to be arrested! There is nothing for it but to abdicate as Emperor. I remain King of Prussia. But that gentlemen may learn how I am served by my Chancellor — Prince Max von Baden proclaimed my abdication both as Emperor and King this morning, without my knowledge and without my authority. That is the way I am served by my last Chancellor!”
Admiral Scheer said to Wilhelm: “The effect on the Navy will be incalculable, if it has lost its Supreme War-Lord.”
Wilhelm replied: “I have no Navy now.”
Crown Prince Wilhelm arrived at noon and met with his father until 3.00pm with the determination that Wilhelm would remain as King of Prussia. Crown Prince Wilhelm returned with his retinue to his Army Group.
During the afternoon of Wilhelm was left alone to contemplate his future and at the same time the socialist Scheidemann declared the Second Reich was at an end and a Republic was established. At 5.00pm von Hindenburg took his leave of Wilhelm as the discussion on his exile in Holland continued.
Wilhelm wrote to his son:
“My Dear Boy
After the Court Chamberlain had informed me that he could no longer guarantee my safety at Main Headquarters, and that the troops also were no longer trustworthy, I resolved after a severe mental struggle to leave the army, which has collapsed, and go to Holland.
I advise you to stick to your post until the conclusion of the armistice.
In Berlin two Governments, under the leadership of Ebert and Liebknecht, are fighting against each other.
I hope to see you again in happier times.
Your faithful and deeply affected father,

At 7.45pm Wilhelm boarded the Imperial train at Spa Station. At 10.00pm it was agreed that Wilhelm would request exile in Holland on the basis that he was a Prince of Orange and therefore a member of the Dutch Royal Family. Niemann recorded: “In the train I found the Emperor already at dinner with his suite. I had been afraid that the excitement of the previous hours would have made him lethargic. But not at all. He looked up at me with all his animation; he face was calm and resolute. They told me that the Emperor had quite changed his mind about going to Holland.”
At 5.00am on 10th the Imperial train pulled out of the station, however due to security worries, it travelled only five kilometres to La Reid (no trace of the railway line or station now exists) where Wilhelm and his retinue transferred into a fleet of cars that they drove in the dark to the border village of Eisden, the Imperial train following.
Wilhelm paced up and down on the station at Eisden whilst the final negotiations took place in Den Haag that took more than six hours, a strange experience for a man who had never had to wait for six minutes for anything in his life, let alone six hours. His train had arrived and he was able to make use of its facilities. Eventually the agreement for Wilhelm and his suite to pass arrived, he got into his car and went into exile. He was driven across the border into Holland a country he would never leave, in life or death.
The Kaiser and his suite initially stayed in Amerongen where his first request being (after checking that his host was not a Freemason): “So what do you say, now give me a nice cup of hot, good, real English tea.” On 16th August 1919 he purchased Huis Doorn close by and moved into the property on 15th May 1920. Eventually twenty-three railway carriages of his chosen items and property was sent to him by the Weimar Government.
Properties Used in the Town
Château de la Faineuse
Initial home of Kaiser Wilhelm II - until 23rd April 1918
Became a meeting house and conference centre for the German High Command
Villa du Neubois
Second home of Kaiser Wilhelm II - from 23rd April 1918

Château Sous-Bois
Home of Field Marshal Hindenburg, fitted with an air-raid shelter

Hill Cottage
Home of General Ludendorff

Hotel Britannique
German Military Headquarters until the end of the War
During the World War II it was used as an Allied Headquarters in September 1944
Now used as a holiday home and educational establishment for children

Villa Buenos-Ayres
elegraph (next to the Britannique)

Villa Marie-Henriette
Military Commandant of Spa and surrounding area

3 avenue de la Gare
Passport services

The Old Station
Garrison administration

Hôtel des Postes
German army postal service
Château de la Faineuse
Post war postcards of Villa du Neubois
The Kaiser talking to the King of Saxony on the terrace
The terrace today
Exterior of Villa du Neubois
The entrance to the house
Field Marshal von Hindenburg, General Pavlo Skoropadskyi (Ukraine) and General Ludendorf at the entrance of Villa du Neubois
Field Marshal von Hindenburg's house close to the Kaiser's house
General Ludendorf's house
overlooking Spa

Hotel Britannique shortly after the war
An aerial view of German Headquarters in the Hotel Britannique
Hotel Britannique, November 1918
The Grand Vizier arrives at
Spa Station

Spa Station today from the
same position

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