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Ralph J. Whitehead

German Casualty discussion

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Williams Article, part 2. The treatment of German losses in BOH 1916 Vol. II [my abbreviation of the title]

Williams continued his review of the BOH in 1916 Vol. II where the revised German loss number increased to 680,000. This made it higher than the Allied losses and apparently proved the point that one side trounced the other.

Williams mentions that Edmonds had supporters such as John Terraine and Victor Bonham Carter who claimed that the new numbers could not be disputed. Williams then turns his attention to pages XIII-XVI of the preface, BOH 1916 Vol. II.

Edmonds apparently argues that despite Churchill and Lloyd George the Germans did lose more men than the Allies. Edmonds apparently felt their mistaken position was an error in accepting loss numbers from the German government that were clearly issued to conceal the truth about the German loss numbers.

Williams concludes that the numbers used by Churchill came from reputable sources. They apparently came from statistics provided in 1921/1922 from the Statistisches Jahrbuch published by the Reichsarchiv. Now, if you simply distrust any document or number issued by the Germans during or after the war then I would suggest stopping here as nothing I write will alter your opinion apparently.

Ok, let’s continue. Williams points out that Edmonds apparently used figures provided by Oman and his use of the Verlustlisten and adding suitable numbers for the end of October and November losses to come up with a total.

Edmonds apparently already stated in BOH 1916 Vol. I ‘Definite figures for the Somme cannot be deduced from the published Verlustlisten.’ Oman felt that if a unit fought on the Somme then the losses reported came from the Somme, add a few extras and you come up with 560,000 losses. Williams ends the discussion of Oman stating that as the two men used different methods to establish their numbers it is not clear how relevant Oman is to the discussion of Edmonds and BOH 1916 Vol. II preface. Edmonds apparently claimed to have used ‘quite different data’ to arrive at his number.

Edmonds went on to claim that with the publication of Volume XI of Der Weltkrieg that he and Oman underestimated German losses. Edmonds felt the Germans did not make full and clear statements of their losses unlike the French and British.

Williams looked at each source and explains how losses were presented in each publication and concludes the French provided the most detailed loss numbers while the methods used by the British were substantially the same as the German and there was little difference between the two in what was being presented to the public.

Williams discusses the ‘30%’ issue from his first article on the subject. Edmonds apparently felt the German losses excluded the bombardment period as well but this is not indicated in the German sources. I agree, I have not come across any reference to show this was excluded or added to the numbers.

Edmonds estimates 10,000 losses from the bombardment period but this is also quite high. Many of the actual losses in killed can be seen in charts at the back of ‘The Other Side of the Wire’, Volume 1 that is currently out in print. [blatant self promotion, sorry].

Per Williams, Edmonds asserts that ‘according to custom’ German divisions losses exclude missing and there is no reference to corps or army troops so that the estimate of German losses of 500,000 for the Somme is ‘well under the mark.’ It should be noted that the losses provided by Der Weltkrieg have division losses that extend into December 1916 as well. Williams also points out that Edmonds also did not provide corps or army troop losses in his numbers.

Per Williams, Edmonds claim of the Germans excluding missing men in their numbers is refuted in the German loss number of 500,000 when the German account mentions that about 75,000 of that number were prisoners. It invalidates Edmond’s claim on this subject.

Williams discusses the statistical procedures used by the different groups involved in the controversy and mentions that Edmonds claims Der Weltkrieg admitted excluding lightly wounded when in fact it did not. This led to the next portion. ‘According to German statistics, the less seriously wounded amounted to from 27 per cent to 33 per cent, thus an average of 30 per cent must be added.’

Add 30% to the 500,000 losses = 650,000 + 10,000 bombardment losses = 660,000. Williams points out that despite claiming the German loss numbers excluded missing men he did not attempt to revise his 660,000 figure with additional numbers to account for them.

Williams correctly points out that the 30% number does not come from German sources, it comes from BOH 1916, Vol. 1, pages 496-497. Williams goes on to say that while this was fully discussed in his previous article he would briefly recapitulate the essential points.

Essentially it was a calculation between overall German losses in the west as opposed to specific losses for different actions. The 27% and 33% differences that came up formed the basis for the 30% ‘average’ Edmonds utilized.

Williams points out that one of the comparisons was supposedly from numbers provided by the Zentralnachweiseamt. (ZNA from now on, as well as Sanitätsbericht = SanB, Zentral Nachweis Büro = ZNB for easier use. A colleague suggested this as the names are long, they are easy to misspell and it would make everything easier on us. The ZNA was formed in 1919 as a successor to the different ZNB that existed in each German state under the Kaiser, etc.)

However, BOH 1916 Vol. 1 claims the numbers used came from the Verlustlisten (VL) published during the war. It has been shown that trying to identify specific casualties for this battle using this data would be impossible unless all of the underlying details on every man listed was available for cross reference. Also the ZNA [incorrectly identified as it would be the ZNB at this time of history] did not compile specific losses for specific battles. The duties it performed included the registration and care of war graves, tracing missing men, etc.

The ZNA amended earlier numbers from the German losses by going through the VL as well as all loss reports filed through the end of the war, tracing missing men, etc. This is why the loss numbers slowly increased in the years following the war as the mountains of information was reviewed and the changes were made to the numbers.

Williams points out that the number 537,919 comes from Churchill’s book [it should read 537,969]. It represents the German losses on the entire western front between July and October 1916. It does not match Wendt’s Somme numbers as they looked at two completely different parameters in their accounting.

Williams concludes that Edmond’s statistical comparisons were valueless and they are the whole of his evidence to support the addition of 30% to German loss numbers. Per Williams ‘We can thus dismiss the ‘gross total’ of 660,000 as imaginary. In this I agree based upon looking at the numbers, the sources, the comparisons, etc.

Edmonds continued his line of thought that the ZNA gave loss numbers for the Somme as 582,919 [a small error as noted above], add 45,000 for November losses as described in Der Weltkrieg. Add 30% so it became 58,500 to give a new total of 641,419. Add over 40,000 prisoners and missing because they were excluded per Edmonds so the new total was about 680,000. Williams points out that using known loss figures for prisoners, etc. then Edmonds revised numbers could exceed 700,000. As Williams pints out this number was not used as perhaps the official Historian did not want to overstate his case.

Williams continues his review of the different numbers, the methods used to arrive at them and some errors pointed out decades ago such as one number indicating that the estimated 45,000 prisoners and missing was apparently added to the inflated loss number twice so that a new revised number was alleged to be 582,919 in the correction portion of BOH 1918 Vol. III.

His conclusion is that the revised loss numbers had no actual basis in fact and the conclusion had fallen completely like a house of cards. Further discussions were made regarding the addition of loss numbers after the war that were not assigned to specific time periods. Churchill argues most if not all were in the last months of the war, others argue they should be distributed across the four years but no specific formula is provided in order to accomplish this.

Williams states Edmonds claimed that the Germans minimized their losses starting at the beginning of the war but no real credible evidence is available to support this view. The German authorities did state that in the early fighting loss reports were not as complete as those after trench warfare began. There could be some missing data but there is also a very good chance much of it was published later as I have found returns for 1914 periods in early 1915 when looking through the VL for this period.

Edmonds rightly points out there was a difference between the ZNB numbers and the SanB numbers for fighting on the eastern front at one point in the war. This was mentioned in the SanB that the staff of the ZNB was simply too small to handle the volume of work and had to be substantially expanded. The subsequent SanB numbers taken from the actual loss returns would then be far more reliable than the work done during the war.

Williams continues with the assertion by Edmonds that the regimental histories prove the German losses were twice as high as reported. As I mentioned in an earlier posting this is complete nonsense. Given there are 2 or more sources to cross reference loss details, especially the men killed, I have never come across anything even remotely similar to this allegation. I doubt Edmonds even made any attempt at all to supply proof for this accusation.

Williams recaps the dispute about numbers, sources, misuse of statistics, etc. and at one point writes: ‘General Edmonds’s methods in using German casualty figures here and throughout his preface to “1916” Volume II have a strong resemblance to Humpty Dumpty’s use of words in “Through the Looking Glass.”

Williams considers the BOH to be, in some respects, superior to the French and German publications. I agree as to the German books, I have never seen any of the French copies. They are detailed, cover entire periods, etc. while the German coverage is abbreviated and in some works quite general in nature.

Williams conclude that the treatment of German loss numbers by Edmonds is unscholarly and unreliable. In this I agree as well. Williams was concerned that such a fine work as the BOH should always maintain the highest scholarly standards of scrupulous exactitude.

One final note from my review of the different articles. I have formed opinions that are based on the different information and disputes I have looked at. Some appear to have come up due to one side vs the other on strategy and tactics, political stances, damaged reputations such as Oman and Edmonds possibly and possibly a rebuttal of a position that appeared to indicate that the average British soldier was somehow incompetent and less effective than his counterpart.

I also feel that the political rumblings of the approaching Second World War had something to do with the positions taken by some. Events can always influence how we feel or what positions we take but without getting far into the minds of every player, pro Haig or pro Churchill etc. we will never know the full truth.

Overall a confusing subject to review and discuss. Much of this is due to the charts, ratios, comparisons and errors made by people over time. People need to look at the information for themselves. Make sure of all sources and the basis for the numbers, the entire western front or a specific battle or time period. The different numbers need to be reviewed using the same criteria or the researcher will never come to any conclusion.

To argue the details of the casualty debate using the very numbers and formulas that all sides used would be a futile effort. If you start off with flawed data and methods you can argue one point or another till the cows come home.

I would strongly suggest looking at the sources, look at the time frames, the methods, the items covered in each report from all countries and then see what comparisons can be made. I would strongly urge against using the numbers tossed about so easily by all of the parties in this debate so that the same results do not occur. I should also point out that is stating ‘flawed data’ does not mean I believe the basic numbers provided by the opposing sides is flawed or simply lies. I mean that it is not wise to accept the work of others without taking a look at the very sources they used and see if you come up with the same results or possibly an entirely new theory. Some source material is finite. The original documents are long gone and what is left is the work of many people over many years and without any shred of solid evidence to show it was propaganda, fiction, etc. [no matter which side that is looked at] then we, as researchers, must accept the existing information as the basis for moving forward.

If anyone would like to verify the U.S. or British loss numbers by going through the paper records, those that survive until today, then please do so. I will see you in about 50 years when you are done. I also urge members not to dismiss one source or another without ever having even looked at it, studied it or tried to determine how accurate it is or what it was based upon.

I doubt anyone can match up ever statistic for every country from every source. This includes Britain and the U.S. as each has published different numbers over time, taken from different sources. I suspect, based on personal research, that the SanB is the most reliable source. The VL can be used to trace individual details and losses but only in a general manner for most of the war. Published rolls of honour, death notices, memorial cards, postcards, village memorials, etc. all serve to refine and verify details of a specific group or soldier.

In my view any attempt to match all sources together is a job for a mad man as they were never designed to do so, the time periods, the criteria, the details each one provides is not a means of verification of one source to another, they are different sources of information to be used in conjunction with one another. Look at the differences and try to determine why this is so.

I prefer the VL as well as the numerous methods of looking at individual losses as this brings the research to the level of a single human being. My interest is in researching and utilizing the human factor of the war and not just discussing what army corps did this, what commander did that. Statistical review also does not alter history; it helps to explain another aspect of it.

I want to know why an NCO from Syracuse, New York was severely wounded at la Boisselle at the end of 1914 while fighting in RIR 120, 26th Reserve Division, XIV Reserve Corps. Why did he enlist? When did he return to Germany? What happened to him afterward? It is questions like this or trying to identify human remains found decades after the war such as Jakob Hönes and Albert Thielecke from RIR 121 that were found by NML, the Great War Archaeological group.

After reading through all this material I am sure some people have more questions than answers. Some still believe Edmonds was right, Churchill was wrong and so on. My aim was to try to make some sense of it all by looking at the different sources. The opinions in the postings are mine and mine alone. All I can ask is to be open minded and look at the evidence before making a decision on any aspect of the war.

The last U.S. veteran of the war just turned 110. I wonder how long it will be until our discussions are simply academic and no primary source materials from the actual participants will exist?

A fellow member has one other item he would like me to look over. I will add this as soon as I can. I am also looking at posting a large spread sheet. The SanB has a section where the wounds of over 2,000,000 men were broken down to the part of the body and the type of wound including small shell sp;inters, large shell splinters, cold steel, shrapnel ball, rifle bullet, etc. Some of the entries could be one man being seen several times but he was only counted if he was released, returned to his unit and then returned with another wound.

Thanks for taking a look at all of this.

Ralph

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phil andrade

Thank you, Ralph. Edmonds is now comprehensively refuted as far as his treatemt of German casualty statistics is concerned.

I am still intrigued as to the whys and wherefores of the different killed to wounded ratios apparent in the RA and the San B.

Both are reputable sources. Why does the SanB presnt such a lower number of killed, and such a greater number of wounded, than the RA ?

I note, Ralph, that in some of the data you supply about Regimental losses on the Somme, the proportion of killed to wounded is much, much higher than the ratio tabulated in the SanB. I recall seeing examples of German regimental losses where the number killed almost equals the number wounded : Aubers in May 1915 comes to mind. You would never think it, looking at the SanB.

Phil (PJA)

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Latze

Williams concludes that the numbers used by Churchill came from reputable sources. They apparently came from statistics provided in 1921/1922 from the Statistisches Jahrbuch published by the Reichsarchiv. Now, if you simply distrust any document or number issued by the Germans during or after the war then I would suggest stopping here as nothing I write will alter your opinion apparently.

Ralph,

thanks again for the detailed discussion of this material. Did you ever have a look at the Statistische Jahrbücher? I know that they are quoted with a number for war dead in SanB, together with a number from Standesämter (which did just record legal status of residents of certain cities, I think a similar institution does not exist in the UK or the USA). I wonder what method they used to arrive at their numbers. They seem to be a civil, not military (or quasi-military like the Reichsarchiv) organisation. I might try to see if these are available in the next university library.

regards

Matt

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George Armstrong Custer

Edmonds is now comprehensively refuted as far as his treatemt of German casualty statistics is concerned.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion.

Both are reputable sources. Why does the SanB presnt such a lower number of killed, and such a greater number of wounded, than the RA ?

You may find that it has something to do with the records of the medical services having more to do with the wounded they treated than counting the dead on the battlefield.

Ralph has obviously invested some time in presenting his interpretation of the sources he reviews, and I've found much of what he says of interest - not always, I suspect, for the reasons he intended. I would note, however, that all of the sources examined by Ralph in these posts have been summed up less discursively, and with a different conclusion, by William Philpott in his Bloody Victory (pp 598 - 603). Inter alia, Philpott references the astute observation of one American staff officer who was engaged upon the task of trying to compare Allied and German losses at the end of 1916, that the victor was far more likely to publish accurate casualty statistics at the end of a war than the vanquished.

George

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phil andrade

I would note, however, that all of the sources examined by Ralph in these posts have been summed up less discursively, and with a different conclusion, by William Philpott in his Bloody Victory (pp 598 - 603).

But, George, Philpott doesn't mention the Sanitatsbericht at all in his book. It is the only source we have that actually gives a categorised breakdown of the overall German casualties on the Somme, and its omission from Philpott's excellent book baffles me.

Phil (PJA)

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George Armstrong Custer

You may be surprised to find that not everyone regards the SB as being quite the holy grail some would have us believe.

George

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phil andrade

No doubt...but then why didn't Philpott allude to it, if only to discredit its findings ?

Phil (PJA)

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George Armstrong Custer

You would need to ask Philpott that question. What I would suggest to you is that it is not so much a question of discrediting the SB as recognising the limitations of its usefulness in reconciling German published losses with what we irrefutably know to be the situation regarding German manpower by 1918.

George

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Jack Sheldon

I think that it is worth reiterating here that we are not the intended audience for the San B. The Germans, for whom it was, were extremely satisfied with it. They invested a huge amount of effort and money in its production and greeted its publication with enthusiastic reviews. Why? Because it was not just a record of what had happened, it was a crucial planning tool during the 1930s, providing a solid underpinning for all aspects of reinforcement and medical planning. Those who had to use it regarded it as close to definitive as would ever be possible. With war on the horizon, it enabled the medical logistic planners, for example, to calculate with high confidence the amount of manpower, infrastructure, vehicles and equipment, drug and dressing stockpiles required to support the operational plans which were being developed and, at a time when there was considerable budgetary pressure (when is there not?) within the German armed forces, it enabled them to fight their corner for an adequate share, so as to be ready to fufil their role when the shooting began.

I might add that German historians with whom I have discussed this subject are baffled why others cannot accept that the record keeping and statistical analysis of a country which practically invented bureaucracy - think Weber! - is highly likely to be accurate.

Jack

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truthergw

I think that it is worth reiterating here that we are not the intended audience for the San B. The Germans, for whom it was, were extremely satisfied with it. They invested a huge amount of effort and money in its production and greeted its publication with enthusiastic reviews. Why? Because it was not just a record of what had happened, it was a crucial planning tool during the 1930s, providing a solid underpinning for all aspects of reinforcement and medical planning. Those who had to use it regarded it as close to definitive as would ever be possible. With war on the horizon, it enabled the medical logistic planners, for example, to calculate with high confidence the amount of manpower, infrastructure, vehicles and equipment, drug and dressing stockpiles required to support the operational plans which were being developed and, at a time when there was considerable budgetary pressure (when is there not?) within the German armed forces, it enabled them to fight their corner for an adequate share, so as to be ready to fufil their role when the shooting began.

I might add that German historians with whom I have discussed this subject are baffled why others cannot accept that the record keeping and statistical analysis of a country which practically invented bureaucracy - think Weber! - is highly likely to be accurate.

Jack

Jack, I am also thinking of Fritz Fischer and the intense hatred he stirred up even after WW2 when he challenged the status quo in German Great War studies. A dispute which still echoes. I am thinking of the bitter struggles between the former members of the High Command in the post Great war period including the Kaiser in his Dutch hideaway. I am thinking of accusations of masonic plots, mysticism, spiritualism being levelled, refuted and returned. I am thinking of how Hindenburg's regime melted into Hitler's. The stab in the back theory, of which Hindenburg was a strident proponent, required German casualties to be small. That argument was a main plank in the National Socialists' platform. Any figures which survive from that era have passed at least one crucial test. They did not contradict the Nazis. Think book burning. Think expulsion of Jews from all academic posts. Think imprisonment of all left wing intelligentsia. Think, these figures were allowed to survive. Read Herwig to see a refutation of the myth of the super efficient Prussian machine.

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phil andrade

The stab in the back theory, of which Hindenburg was a strident proponent, required German casualties to be small.

The SB could never, never be accused of producing "small" German casualties. Hitler himself alluded to the two million German dead of the Great War....a figure that was countenanced by the SB when it attempted to explain its methodology and reconcile it with the figure of 2,037,000 military dead that it acknowledged.

I think Jack has the answer : it was a didactic work.

In this regard, it's significant that in the decade after the Franco-Prussian War, the tabulations of Prussian casualties in that conflict was carried out with a phenomenal meticulousness, with details of mortality that no other belligerent nation, apparently, was willing, or able, to compile. This reflected professionalism and a conscious effort to provide instruction. I reckon that the SB was carrying on that tradition.

Phil (PJA)

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truthergw

The SB could never, never be accused of producing "small" German casualties. Hitler himself alluded to the two million German dead of the Great War....a figure that was countenanced by the SB when it attempted to explain its methodology and reconcile it with the figure of 2,037,000 military dead that it acknowledged.

I think Jack has the answer : it was a didactic work.

In this regard, it's significant that in the decade after the Franco-Prussian War, the tabulations of Prussian casualties in that conflict was carried out with a phenomenal meticulousness, with details of mortality that no other belligerent nation, apparently, was willing, or able, to compile. This reflected professionalism and a conscious effort to provide instruction. I reckon that the SB was carrying on that tradition.

Phil (PJA)

It also reflects the point that victors have no need to falsify casualties.

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Let me see if I can address some of the recent posts in one reply. Phil, In order to look at specific regiments and ratios it will require some time. In these cases I believe you need to be careful not to look at a narrow set of data for a short time period, say 1 July and then compare these to ratios and numbers based upon returnes from a full month for an entire division. While some regiments I have discussed did have different ratios than the SanB presents others had far lower. RIR 15 on 1 July suffered about 12 dead and wounded if memory serves. If you average these numbers with the others you get a different ratio altogether. Also, keep in mind, the SanB was reporting onthe returns filed every 10 days and from hospital records, etc. The status changed for men, especially in the missing category. Subsequent reports would provide changes in the numbers of missing, prisoners, killed, etc.

Please fogive me but you use an abbreviation RA. I am not completely sure what you mean by it, could you let me know, thanks.

Matt, I have not seen the Statistische Jahrbücher? or the Standesämter? Both would be useful tools in looking at different numbers, sources, etc. I will check here as well as I am often surprised as to the books held in some libraries. If you find anything I would appreciate it if you could let me see an example, thanks.

In regard to the SanB and the reliability of the numbers I have to agree with Jack. A great deal of effort and resource was put into providing the most accurate accounting that could be made by men sifting through mountains of data and compiling various charts and graphs of which there are dozens upon dozens covering numerous areas of interest. The SanB did not just report on medical records, it used the field reports and these did include the men killed or died from wounds as reported by their companies and regiments.

I mentioned a specific chart covering some 2,000,000 plus wounded from August 1914 through January 1917. The areas of the injuries are broekn down into very specific categories such as the head. This covers the soft tissue areas (face mostly), the skull/bone and the brain. The chest injuries include a category for wounds that were penetrating with an exit wound and those that did not exit the body. The spine covers the bone materials, the spinal cord or spinal marrow, etc. These were not created from thin air, they come from specific medical reports for wounded under treatment.

George, I am glad that you found some of the materials of interest. I gather from your one post you are still a believer in Edmonds and his numbers. I obviously disagree as his methods, his lack of any research and once again, his anectdotal evidence (but mom, every one knows....) clearly refutes his numbers and methods. As there has been a lot of effort trying to show the numbers, the calculations, the inconsistent statemts such as praising Churchill and his account and then attacking it and claiming it is wrong I would like to see a posting that shows just how correct he was and how his numbers were accurate, ratios correct, etc.

It was never my intention to persuade people to alter their opinions, I wanted to look at this area of controversy and try to narrow down the positions, the reason, etc. So far all of the opposition to the German sources, their accuracy, reliability, etc. has been based on the idea that two different sets of data, recorded at different times under different criteria do not match and therefore both are suspect. Throw in anectdotal evidence such as the victors tend to report their losses more accurately then the losers and again it is a mere statement. While it may be correct att times in history I simply need more to go on than just a simple statement without supporting foundation materials.

I read a U.S. military magazine published in 1916 where the machine gun was being discussed. The conclusion was that while it was very useful in the current war, once peace came its value would greatly diminish and it would simply fade away into obscurity. Boy, was he wrong.

I would like to see some real research into suppporting the generalizations being made. The SanB did not report numbers simply to support the 'Stab in the Back' theory. The SanB does not alter the condition of the German army in 1918. The breakdown was the result of insufficient manpower, food, resources, exhaustion. The blockade was causing near famine conditions toward the end and all of this plus other factors need to be looked at in the German collapse. The SanB is a statistical review, that's all. It had its uses as mentioned by Jack for future planning reasons.

I have not seen anything that would suggest the losses reported in the SanB, the VL or other sources somehow refutes the situation facing the German army during the war. They are all statistical accountings made from the losses suffered during the war. There is no theory that the losses meant that an historic fact changed or that the German army really was not falling apart at the end. They are numbers, a look at the scale of the men killed, wounded and missing. Names, birthplace, type of casualty found in the VL are not for propaganda use. The loss reports for Africa for example are extremely detailed. Occupations are added, exact details of when the loss occurred and against which country. Death by a variety of horrible diseases are shown. It is simply a record of the known information, down to the smallest detail in many cases of the men who became casualties.

Some editions of the VL had lists of personal items carried on men whjo died in the attempt that a family member might recognize them. Sketches of a tattoo or other identifying mark are shown. Deceased men in hospitals were photographed and published still in bandages in the hope of a person writing in to give a name to the deceased. I am sorry, this is not a work of fiction and not one that is sloppy or haphazard, it is a real attempt to report on losses as they occurred and no other reason than that.

My Japanes history teracher, Professor Watanabe, was a student in Japan in WWII. He mentioned that after Midway, when 4 japanese aircraft carriers were lost the government hid this fact and allowed the families to continue writing letters, etc. and advised them that the ships were at sea. Finally, in late 1944 I believe, the public was informed of their loss. This is an example of hiding the facts, nothing remotely similar to the German methods used during the war.

I have not read Philpott's material so if anyone could supply me with the relative section, the conclusions, etc. and how it was arrived at then I would be very appreciative. I would be happy to look at the evidence and see what I make of it all.

I also mentioned cross referencing items such as statistical data and comparing the sources. Part of this comes from the memorial cards published for many soldiers during the wear. I have seen thousands of these, some with more detail than others. Here is such an example, an art printer who was killed by a shot to the head in 1915 during an assault. Photo, personal details, dates, etc. are all provided. These match the VL from the time period and his statistical detail is in the SanB most likely. This whole study, for me, is not a set of one number over another, who killed more that the other side, it is a sense of humanity, the family of this man shown below, the effect on his relatives. I have read the feldpost letters of men. They contain mundane items, family stories, comical events and homesickness. All to often they stop suddenly when a man is killed or seriously wounded. They too bring the sense of humanity to the study of the war.

In conclusion, I would ask for solid research and a clear explanation of the findings for all of the inuendo, anectdotal accounts and such for the people who seem to feel that there was some great conspiracy. I would like to see all of the mysterious sources bandied about by people who have never bothered to look at any of the opposing materials before making wild claims. These mysterious lists simply do not exist. If they did then show me one.

Sorry if it comes across that I am annoyed but after doing years of research into numerous areas of the war it would be nice to see some of the very same effort when an opposing view comes along. Put something solid behind the argument,not just the word - because...

Ralph (home because the snow and ice were just too much to handle today)

post-32-098019400 1296661394.jpg

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Latze

George,

You may find that it has something to do with the records of the medical services having more to do with the wounded they treated than counting the dead on the battlefield.

I am unsure: are you aware that this 'counting the dead' was part of a prescribed (regulations from 1907, the Kriegssanitätsordnung) accounting system? Thus being one of the functions of the medical service's reporting and not something of an afterthought. Maybe the differences Phil mentioned are better explained by the fact that the SanB explicitly states that some records in August /September 1914 are missing (e.g. 2nd army) and that it does not cover the last months of the war?

Inter alia, Philpott references the astute observation of one American staff officer who was engaged upon the task of trying to compare Allied and German losses at the end of 1916, that the victor was far more likely to publish accurate casualty statistics at the end of a war than the vanquished.

I think that the operating word here is 'likely'. The Soviet Union undoubtly won the Second World War. Casualty figures are nonetheless unavailable or unreliable. So that can go both ways.

regards

Matt

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Ralph J. Whitehead

It also reflects the point that victors have no need to falsify casualties.

But they do at times. Apparently Edmonds felt he needed to falsify the enemy losses despite the Allies having won the war. Why is that I wonder?

Ralph

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Jack Sheldon

I do not want to contribute to a conversation of the deaf, so I am not going to add to my last post. Instead, here are a couple of figures which I find interesting, originating, as they do, from two books on the same subject, both tainted by Nazism and both published in 1937.

I refer to Somme by Hans Henning Freiherr Grote, Hamburg 1937 and Somme 1916 by Generalleutnant a.D. Ernst Kabisch, Berlin 1937. These books were products of the Nazi era and, to the best of my knowledge, both authors were at the very least sympathisers. If there was a party line concerning casualties on the Somme, how come Kabisch (p192) states that the German casualties in 'wounded, dead and missing' were 'about 437,500'; whilst Grote writes (p 161) that, 'the German casualties can be estimated at 500,000'. Suppose we run with the second figure for the sake of argument, it is not all that different from the work of the more sensible of the Anglophone commentators, so where is the 'minimising'? Where is the falsification of figures and where is the heavy hand of censorship in all this?

Jack

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Latze

Tom,

Jack, I am also thinking of Fritz Fischer and the intense hatred he stirred up even after WW2 when he challenged the status quo in German Great War studies. A dispute which still echoes. I am thinking of the bitter struggles between the former members of the High Command in the post Great war period including the Kaiser in his Dutch hideaway. I am thinking of accusations of masonic plots, mysticism, spiritualism being levelled, refuted and returned. I am thinking of how Hindenburg's regime melted into Hitler's. The stab in the back theory, of which Hindenburg was a strident proponent, required German casualties to be small. That argument was a main plank in the National Socialists' platform. Any figures which survive from that era have passed at least one crucial test. They did not contradict the Nazis. Think book burning. Think expulsion of Jews from all academic posts. Think imprisonment of all left wing intelligentsia. Think, these figures were allowed to survive. Read Herwig to see a refutation of the myth of the super efficient Prussian machine.

between 1918 and 1933 there was a controversy in Germany about the 'stab in the back' - yes, right wing opinion was dominant but it was not unchallenged. There was a parlimentary commision looking into this, the book with their findings is still to be found. They had people like Hand Delbrück as experts or Dr. Martin Hobohm. But there was no controversy regarding casualty numbers I am aware of. Are you? The two best books about the dealings of the Reichsarchiv by Pöhlmann and Herrmann have nothing to say about a possible falsyfing of casualty numbers or any debate about them either. And these are two authors who are very much critical of the RA.

regards

Matt

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ph0ebus

Hi all,

I am reading this thread, and as a total novice, I am doing my best to keep up. I have a question that may be a dumb one, but of course I won't know that till it is asked: Has there been a comparison of these lists you are referring to against unit histories (meaning those that have lists of dead and wounded...I know not all unit histories have them) to see if there are any discrepancies, and if so, what types or patterns emerge? Given a choice of the two information sources, which would you view as more credible?

What prompts my question is my own findings in researching my grandfather. He was stricken with typhoid while with one unit, then shot while with a second unit, then gassed with a third unit. I have not seen the Unit History for the first unit, so I do not know if he appears in any list that might be in the history or not. I have the second Unit History and he does not appear in the unit's list of dead and wounded, though I have concrete evidence he was wounded while serving with them. In the third history he appears in the list of wounded, as he should.

I know when looking at the events surrounding one man it is tough to compare that info against the large-scale numbers you are discussing, but I am just curious if anyone has conducted that sort of side-by-side comparison, assuming such a thing is even possible.

Thanks, and I look forward to reading more.

-Daniel

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Ralph J. Whitehead

RA = Reichsarchiv, got it! Ralph

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Daniel, It is a reasonable question to ask, and yes, I have done a great deal of research on regimental records such as the post war histories and the VL printed during the war. I have come across some differences but after a further search it seems that most is a matter of spelling or dates. Some dates in regimentals were not as accurate as others but I will add these are few and far between.

In regard to the comparison of known injuries to the VL I have found no errors as such. It might be that one battalion was prionted one day, the next in a list or two after. The names, and some are mispelled only to be corrected down the road, are found where they should be. The biggest problem I face is that almost every regimental that has a roll of honour does not list wounded men, only killed and fatally wounded, fatally injured, died from illness, etc.

One Bavarian artillery regiment goes as far as listing all killed, wounded, injured, etc. Books such as the listings for the Jewish war dead are helpful as they list names, rank, units and the VL they appeared in. The names are also referenced by towns in each German state so it is easy to trace them back to the VL.

If I can help out in a search for the appropriate VL for your relative please let me know and I will see what I can find.

Ralph

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salesie

So far all of the opposition to the German sources, their accuracy, reliability, etc. has been based on the idea that two different sets of data, recorded at different times under different criteria do not match and therefore both are suspect.

Ralph (home because the snow and ice were just too much to handle today)

Come off it, Ralph, you're well aware that there are more than two German lists that do not tally, there are several in fact. And every single one of them has been put forward at some time on this forum as "proof" for some point or other. The most recent "Holy Grail" put forward being the Sanitats, which clearly is no such thing.

After reading everyone of your posts in this and other threads I've noticed a remarkable consistency; in that 90% of the content of your posts is invariably a repetitive list of caveats as to why German casualty lists cannot be totally accurate and/or in balance. You tell us over and over again that the lists were extremely complex to compile so errors, sometimes gross errors, are inevitable, (but also tell us how super efficient Germans were at such things), that some count "apples" whilst others count "oranges" so, of course, they don't balance (but fail to tell us that all these lists purport to measure/count the same thing), that until someone sits down for fifty years and cross-references everything then no one truly knows if the lists are accurate or not, so criticism is unwarranted and unhelpful (but fail to mention that fifty years is an underestimate because 90% of German archives were destroyed in the firestorms of WW2 so a time span of infinity should be given to the impossible task of applying due-diligence to the German lists), that at the beginning and end of the war there were many incomplete records (yet you criticise Edmonds' for not having all the facts) etc. etc. - the number of caveats you put on these lists is actually far in excess of those of any critic of German casualty lists.

In other words, Ralph, you tell us that super efficient German administrators were not able to put together several lists that even closely tally, even though said lists basically measure/count the same thing, and the reason for this is that it was an extremely complex task and some were counting one thing and others another. I've said it before (in other threads) and I'll say it again - I see your posts as being nothing more than meandering excuses to cover for decidedly iffy German casualty lists - and, consequently, would ask you this, (in an attempt to get to the bottom line); which of the several, non tallying, German casualty lists, that purport to measure/count the same thing, do you wish us to accept as fact?

Cheers-salesie.

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Ralph J. Whitehead

As I had expected, no facts, just talk. Excuses and inuendo and semantics (yours, not mine). Of course in writing the different posts I did not fully explain a position or use the 'proper' numbers so therefore my theories and findings must all be wrong. Sounds like Edmonds all over again.

If you have a point to make then supply facts and details. I am trying to be honest as to the extent of the materials and the reports and the historic details of every issue that they faced and we faced. Sorry I am trying to muddy the waters with facts and details that the average reader of the forum should have and many want to have. Yes there are more than 2 lists but also consider that the earlier information collected was the basis for many of the later lists and reports. The ZNB and VL were done during the war, the RA and SanB and ZNA afterward.

If you feel Edmonds is a math genius then prove it through discussion and research, not trying to dismantle others. And finally, the lists put forth during and after the war were not designed to match. You claim to have such knowledge of accounting ideas in previous posts yet cannot get it clear that this was not the purpose, this was not the desire and the lists stand on their own for the purposes they were created, statistical details. If people attach additional reasons for their existence then I would like to see the research that shows this. I have seen mention of 'hidden' or 'secret' lists. Can I see one?

I had expected some solid reasoning for an opposing opinion and not a rehash of the same old same old. You do not agree with any of the opinions put forth, so be it. End of discussion.

Ralph

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truthergw

My main problem is that after decades of different lists with different tallies, we are presented with yet another list with its tally. This one, we are assured, is definitely correct and cannot be doubted. It has existed for many years and was not a secret but was presumably not used by any of the rival lists. Nevertheless, somehow it is infallible. Edmonds had his faults and no one is perfect but he at least set out his figures with his sources. Where there were no figures he gives his estimates and explains how he arrived at them. Where figures are available but Edmonds thinks they are wrong, he says so and he says why and he gives the grounds for his corrections. Edmonds is not some madman raving in the wilderness. There are other authors who have agreed with him. There is near unanimity in the Entente camp, including the Americans, that the Germans either did not report casualties or when they did, consistently under reported them. If this list is correct then that is a great step forward in the analysis of the war and must be welcomed. I have pointed out some of the reasons for my misgivings. When the accuracy of this list is emphasised that implies an acceptance that other figures are false. In what way does this list differ from these previous and admittedly false lists? Is it their source? Is it the method of acquiring and collating the figres? Please do not tell me that the lists must be accurate because they were drawn up by the Prussian bureaucracy. Civil servants of all countries and eras are past masters at misdirection. Finally, I would simply add that the interwar regimes in Germany proposed a theory of causation for the war which deftly evaded blame for them and apportioned it equally among the belligerents in a rare display of democracy. That cosy theory still stood in the immediate post war years. It was attacked and demolished, not without some very bitter infighting and is largely discounted now among modern historians. What these rival theories were is of no import for me here but it is an example of how deeply the culture of misdirection was embeddeed in inter-war Germany and gives a clue as to how hard it may be to actually lay one's hands on truthful data where it was in the interests of war time and post war authorities to obscure it.

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salesie

As I had expected, no facts, just talk. Excuses and inuendo and semantics (yours, not mine). Of course in writing the different posts I did not fully explain a position or use the 'proper' numbers so therefore my theories and findings must all be wrong. Sounds like Edmonds all over again.

If you have a point to make then supply facts and details. I am trying to be honest as to the extent of the materials and the reports and the historic details of every issue that they faced and we faced. Sorry I am trying to muddy the waters with facts and details that the average reader of the forum should have and many want to have. Yes there are more than 2 lists but also consider that the earlier information collected was the basis for many of the later lists and reports. The ZNB and VL were done during the war, the RA and SanB and ZNA afterward.

If you feel Edmonds is a math genius then prove it through discussion and research, not trying to dismantle others. And finally, the lists put forth during and after the war were not designed to match. You claim to have such knowledge of accounting ideas in previous posts yet cannot get it clear that this was not the purpose, this was not the desire and the lists stand on their own for the purposes they were created, statistical details. If people attach additional reasons for their existence then I would like to see the research that shows this. I have seen mention of 'hidden' or 'secret' lists. Can I see one?

I had expected some solid reasoning for an opposing opinion and not a rehash of the same old same old. You do not agree with any of the opinions put forth, so be it. End of discussion.

Ralph

Come off it, Ralph, you're well aware that I've given you plenty of reasons in the past why I view your posts as nothing more than excuse making, and you also know that I've clearly stated in several threads that I'm not a defender of Edmonds per se, but I am a severe critic of the nonsense that German casualty lists breed - so your apparent indignation does you no credit at all.

I'm now challenging the very logic of your stance by using your own words, and putting you on the spot i.e. I'm asking you directly, given the masses of research you've done, which German list you would recommend we accept as fact - or have you made so many caveats, for each individual list, that you now find it impossible to answer?

Cheers-salesie.

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Jack Sheldon

Perhaps we need a fresh thread so we can get into a discussion about why we should not regard Brigadier General Edmonds as a lying fraudster, pursuing his his own decidely iffy agenda when it came to German casualties. Harsh words, dear reader, but sadly this is precisely the tone and approach adopted by those who attack, on the basis of very little, or no, knowledge, the efforts of those who have studied the matter and who wish only to cast light on the subject - especially Ralph who has probably done more than any other individual in modern times to study and understand the casualty reporting methods.

Jack

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