A dramatic new sound clip—made from sound wave recordings made by artillery-position recording devices and actual gunfire recorded at the front—has allowed everyone to hear the guns of World War I fall silent at 11am on November 11, 1918.
The soundscape was produced from “sound ranging” film that was made to locate enemy artillery positions.
Even as the armistice came into effect at 11 a.m., the Allies were using state-of-the-art “sound ranging” techniques to detect the location of the enemy.
Rather than recording sound, the system recorded the noise intensity at any one moment onto a rolling piece of photographic film, similar to how a seismograph records tremors in the earth.
Britain’s Imperial War Museum, which had a set of graphic records labelled “THE END OF THE WAR” among its artefacts, asked sound experts from the London acoustics firm Coda to Coda to use just such a photographic record — from the American front on the Moselle — to reproduce a soundscape of the moment of armistice.
The sound film was made by strings of microphones, set far apart, used to detect the sound from a particular piece of artillery. The sound of any large gun being fired would be picked up by all the microphones – even if they were miles apart.
Precisely because the sounds would be picked up at different times, the distance of the guns from each microphone’s location, cross-referenced with each other, could provide an accurate location of each gun.
The full three-minute piece documents the sounds from 10.58 a.m. to 11.01 a.m. on November 11, 1918. Visitors to the Imperial War Museum in London can hear it in full.