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Ralph J. Whitehead

German Casualty discussion

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phil andrade

Thank you, Mike.

There's a mountain of work that one could do here.

Look at what Ralph has achieved !

I, for one, lack the discipline necessary for such a task.

I reckon I would go out of my mind trying to do that.

For my purposes, a really generalised approach is sufficient ; although, without the efforts of Ralph and people of his calibre, the evidence wouldn't be there for the likes of me to benefit from.

My estimates are grotesquely simple, but I do predicate them on data from official sources.

I note, for example, that the aggregate total of battle casualties from the santitatsbericht for the years 1915 and 1916 are almost identical : both just over 1.5 million. This corroborates my argument that the 1.7 million tabulated in the Central Enquiries Office for 1915 are too high ; I retain confidence in my suggestion that this reflects the inclusion of large numbers of 1914 casualties within.

If I am right about this, it implies that German officialdom was overwhelmed by the initial burden of the task of recording the casualties, which, in itself, might indicate that preparedness was not quite up to the standard required in a more general sense.

Phil (PJA)

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Guest

Thanks Phil. I think Glen's list is probably a better one?

I have also found this Verlustliten searchable by name.

Mike

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Ken S.

Those are the Austrian lists. They have been digitizing them for the last several months, along with many other useful resources.

I found this that should be useful to some. Pity I don't read German?

Seems to go up to 1916, not sure if there should be lists for 1917-1918?

Verlustliste

Mike

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Guest

Some more snapshots to illustrate the huge variations in the British numbers initially reported and what was later recorded. Numbers are from 1914 and 1915. The 'Reported' numbers all come from 'Statistics 1914-19' for 'France' (actually France and Flanders) and the CWGC data only counts men in the British Army who are commemorated in France and Flanders. It excludes men who died in other Theatres or the UK. Importantly it will exclude men who DOW in the UK so the CWGC benchmark in the example below is under-stated.

France and Flanders

Fatal Casualties...............Reported........CWGC.......% difference.

1914..................................16,965..........25,212...........48.6%

1915..................................62,055..........78,659...........26.8%

Clearly the MIA will count for much of the difference, but 'Statistics 1914-19' was published in 1920, showing that the numbers had not been finessed two years after the War. More importantly the 1914 data for fatal casualties was still under-reported by a third some 6 years after the event. This is one of the reasons why I think the British numbers from early published histories need to treated with extreme caution. The fatal casualties were clearly underestimated by a very large margin. I don't want to distract from the German focus, but I think it is important to understand the inherent weaknesses in the British data if they are being used as a benchmark.

The other aspect that one might consider is the difference between Casualties, Temporary Losses and Permanent Losses. The WIA was by far the single largest sub-group of Casualties and 63% of British WIA returned to duty in the front line and a further 18% returned to other duties: 81% in total effectively Temporary Losses but not Permanent Losses. The OH Medical Services (arguably the most detailed and most reliable source of British casualty stats) records on page 20, Table 8: "Final Disposal of Cases treated by the Medical Services":

Disposal.......................................................................................................Wounded......Sick or Injured

Returned to duty in the front line

A. From front line medical unit.......................................................................7%..................21%

B. From hospital or convalescent depot......................................................57%..................63%

Returned to duty on L of C, Garrison or sedentary occupation.......................18%....................9%

Died..................................................................................................................7%.....................1%

Discharged from the service.............................................................................8%.....................4%

Disposal otherwise but not stated.....................................................................3%.....................2%

The OH Medical Services indicates that the numbers above were of very great interest to Military planners and the Govt so one might reasonably expect that they were complied with a considerable amount of attention to detail and that they are reliable.

Any mistakes are mine.

MG

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Ralph J. Whitehead

As in any situation where you are trying to keep an accurate count of millions of men fighting on 3-4 or more fronts, with less than perfect communication reporting (German East Africa for example) and the confusion in modern combat it is virtually impossible to maintain accurate records. This said, every warring nation did its best to keep accurate records, some with more success than others. I believe every country was trying to cope with this task, not only for purposes of keeping track of losses so they had a good idea of the available strength, need for replacement needs but to keep families informed of their loved ones.

I also doubt any of the countries had expected the scope of losses that modern weapons produced and the length of time the war lasted. The thought process, in my opinion, of all countries was grounded in 19th Century ideals, to report as accurately as possible and not try to deceive the enemy. If the idea was to deceive, why print losses at all, simply notify people individually and ignore published records. The Germans were well aware that the lists went to neutral countries and it would not be difficult for the opposing side to obtain them.

The VL went back to reporting regiments after the war ended, losses from 1914 were listed in 1918 as records were corrected or found. At least one account mentions the total loss of records in the field from artillery fire. I am sure this was not isolated. The German losses of dead continued to rise throughout the 1920's and early 30's. This does not match the great conspiracy theories. Also, the accurate review of the records from that period do not alter history, they only refine our knowledge. Loss reviews, revised numbers from period records only helps us understand the events of that time.

As shown in recent entries to this thread, there are problems and revisions in numbers reported other countries. I for one would like to know as much as possible about the history of the war and the men, not argue what has been accepted for 90 years. In view of Phil's entries, perhaps a good project will be to identify losses in early 1915 that belong to 1914 just to see how accurate or inaccurate the reported numbers were? A retirement project I am afraid, at present book 3 is forming up well and I am working on the outline of 1917 which is the most difficult portion so far. The earlier and later periods formed up easily and has some great information on the formation of modern infantry units with multiple specialty weapons, close artillery support from batteries designed to actually accompany infantry at the front, etc.

I am sure all of the different positions, arguments (friendly) and disagreements will continue for years to come.

Ralph

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phil andrade

Martin,

You refer to the missing in action accounting for much of the difference between Statistics F&F and CWGC.

Should that not be the great bulk of the difference ?

I am dismayed at how often that category is overlooked.

About 560,000 were confirmed dead in France and Belgium according to the most frequently cited official count. The real total, of course, was well in excess of 700,000. The difference is attributable to nearly 150,000 MIA who were not accounted for but who were, in fact, dead.

Forgive me for stressing what must be obvious to you : your command of the figures is inspirational ; there are still citations of 560,000 British dead on the Western Front in too many accounts....it's as if those tragically high numbers of missing did not exist.

Ralph,

Thank you for acknowledging my emphasis on those 1.7 million German 1915 casualties : I am convinced that one tenth of those properly belong to 1914 , but can only offer my firm conviction as an argument, backed up by those reichsarciv estimates for 1914 on the Western Front cited by Churchill.

Have you taken a look at Churchill's essay on this ?

The Blood Test, in his history The World Crisis, is, to my mind, one of the most compelling forays ever made into this ghastly world of statistical analysis of human slaughter. Not everyone will agree with his contentions ; but I would prefer his version to that of Edmonds.

Phil (PJA)

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Guest

Are there any figures for the number of POW's, surely many of them were "missing"?

Mike

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Ralph J. Whitehead

The biggest change in the post war years in Germany was the attempt to determine the fate of the missing. As each case was reviewed, the number of dead increased until there was a final cut off date. I believe there is a copy of such documents earlier in this thread.

Ralph

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phil andrade

Are there any figures for the number of POW's, surely many of them were "missing"?

Mike

Yes, the number ( as claimed by Germany's enemies, as opposed to admitted by Germany herself ) was 924,000, of whom 774,000 were taken on the Western Front.

By 1934, the number of confirmed deaths was 1.9 million, with another 100,000 missing who were unaccounted for and presumed dead.

The whole aspect of that compilation attests meticulous and earnest research rather than fraudulent or cooked figures. Even so, it is rather hard to reconcile a two million figure with the implications of 1.6+ million recovered dead.....the implication is that at least another quarter million dead somehow went off the radar, if we allow for the probability that the recovered dead account for some seventy per cent of the total ( extrapolating here from CWGC data).

I still struggle with the inordinately high number of casualties posted in 1915. I can only reiterate my conviction that this reflects that one tenth of these belong to 1914, but I do not have the authentic research to provide evidence up to the mark of Ralph's and Martin's high standards. If I'm wrong, I hope I'll be man enough to be gracious about it. How can we otherwise account for more than 1.7 million German casualties in 1915 : more than double the number posted in 1914, and towering above those of 1916 ?

German casualties in 1915 were indeed heavy. This was the year of supreme effort against the Russians, and of furious battles in Artois and Champagne in spring, summer and autumn. But can we really believe that these exceeded the toll extracted from Germany by the Somme, Verdun and Brusilov ?

It seems feasible to me that the casualty recording mechanism was not up to speed in 1914, and gradually got things together in the following year. Even so, it's clear that an additional half million had to be added on as the post war decade allowed for further investigation and revelation.

I think it fair to say that no fewer than three quarters of all German manpower losses occurred on the Western Front, and that, on that front, 1918 accounted for one third of all German casualties sustained there throughout the war, and probably, one quarter of all casualties for all fronts.

Edit : look at the table posted by Jack on post number 142. The additional casualties " discovered" between the end of 1918 and the end of 1933 amount to almost exactly half a million. Of the prisoners, 55,000 died in captivity.

Phil (PJA)

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ss002d6252

About 560,000 were confirmed dead in France and Belgium according to the most frequently cited official count. The real total, of course, was well in excess of 700,000. The difference is attributable to nearly 150,000 MIA who were not accounted for but who were, in fact, dead.

The 1931 stats from the medical history give 564,715 deaths for the BEF from Aug 14 to Dec 18.

For France & Belgium I can see 588,063 deaths recorded with the CWGC for the same period.

In 1931 the CWGC were different for the official medical statistics by 23,248 ( using today's CWGC figures which have obviously been revised since 1931 - is there any way of finding out what the figures was in 1931 ?).

What surprises me is that these 23,000 or so hadn't been declared dead by this point, a decade later, although it is possible that the 1931 figures includes BEF men who died after being repatriated (it doesn't seem to say one way or the other) and they are recorded in the UK CWGC deaths ( I don't there's anyway to tell for certain as the official medical history doesn't have the stats).

Was there a cut off point at which there was an official declaration of death for all remaining missing BEF men ?

Craig

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Guest

The 1931 stats from the medical history give 564,715 deaths for the BEF from Aug 14 to Dec 18.

For France & Belgium I can see 588,063 deaths recorded with the CWGC for the same period.

In 1931 the CWGC were different for the official medical statistics by 23,248 ( using today's CWGC figures which have obviously been revised since 1931 - is there any way of finding out what the figures was in 1931 ?).

What surprises me is that these 23,000 or so hadn't been declared dead by this point, a decade later, although it is possible that the 1931 figures includes BEF men who died after being repatriated (it doesn't seem to say one way or the other) and they are recorded in the UK CWGC deaths ( I don't there's anyway to tell for certain as the official medical history doesn't have the stats).

Was there a cut off point at which there was an official declaration of death for all remaining missing BEF men ?

Craig

Craig

When the British OH was written for France and Belgium in 1925 this was 3 years after "Statistics 1914-19" was published (1922). The OH chose to ignore this data and still run with the data reported at the time (1914). Taking just the fatal battle casualties:

British Army Fatal Casualties to end Nov 1914

Official History................9,473

Statsistics 1914-19......14,499

CWGC data.................14,177

The difference between the Stats 1914-19 and CWGC data can be explained by men who died of wounds in the UK. Note the CWGC data here only shows men commemorated in France and Belgium in an attempt to proxy the number in Statistics. The implication here is that Statistics 1914-19 had a pretty good handle on the numbers killed as early as 1922 and I suspect was using the IWGC data (later CWGC). MG

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ss002d6252
When the British OH was written for France and Belgium in 1925 this was 3 years after "Statistics 1914-19" was published (1922).

Mine's dated 1931 - it would be interesting to see how it varies from the original (I should clarify its the Casualties & Statistics edition).

The implication here is that Statistics 1914-19 had a pretty god handle on the numbers killed as early as 1922 and I suspect was using the IWGC data (later CWGC). MG

Thanks Martin. That's what I was wondering re deaths at home but it answer the question I had.

Craig

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phil andrade

The 1931 stats from the medical history give 564,715 deaths for the BEF from Aug 14 to Dec 18.

For France & Belgium I can see 588,063 deaths recorded with the CWGC for the same period.

That CWGC figure looks wrong to me, Craig.

Would you mind checking ?

I am absolutely sure that the CWGC data give something in the order of 715,000 - 725,000 for France and Belgium.

Might it be that the figure you cite alludes to burials, known and unknown ; or just to France ; or for UK personnel only ?

If memory serves, there are about 525,000 buried/commemorated in France, and in excess of 190,000 in Belgium.

Please see what you can find out.

We know that in excess of one million are commemorated for the Great War, and I think most would agree that more than two thirds of them died on the Western Front.

Phil (PJA)

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ss002d6252
Might it be that the figure you cite alludes to burials, known and unknown ; or just to France ; or for UK personnel only ?

I searched for British Army deaths in France and Flanders between August 14 and Dec 1918.

France 427698

Belgium 160365

Total 588063

This is for UK soldiers between Aug 14 and end of Dec 1918 ( I use these dates and BEF as it matches the criteria used in the medical stats).

I am absolutely sure that the CWGC data give something in the order of 715,000 - 725,000 for France and Belgium.

The figure increases to 722,000 if you include all nationalities.

Craig

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phil andrade

Ah, that looks right.

And thank you too, Craig....I thought I was going mad !

Yes, that figure of 722,000 is for all British and Dominion personnel. Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Indians and Newfoundlanders account for in excess of 130,000.

It would not include a significant number of men who were mortally wounded in France and Belgium and died from their wounds in Blighty.

All in all, we won't be far off the mark if we state that the Western Front cost Britain and her empire three quarters of a million lives.

I should think it cost Germany about twice as many.

And I should think that, for both the British Empire and Imperial Germany, the Western Front accounted for seventy per cent of all their soldiers who died on all fronts. Perhaps more than that for Germany.

Editing here : reverting to the figure of 564,000 that you cited initially, I think that is for the British Empire deaths exclusive of those nearly 150,000 missing : I don't think it is for UK only.

More editing ....yes, that 564,000 is from medical statistics for all British and dominion troops in France and Flanders 1914-1918.

It is broken down into 381,000 killed in action ; 151,000 died of wounds and 32,000 died from disease or accidents : aggregate 564,000 WITHOUT the 145,000 unaccounted for missing, who raise the total deaths to 709,000. Please check me here..I'm not at home and don't have the volume to refer to.

Phil (PJA)

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Consider several factors when it came to resolving the final numbers of missing men. The countries followed through until the early 1930's before stopping. If a man was missing for 15 years or so then it was most likely he was dead. Also, there was political upheaval around the world as he depression kicked into high gear. With all of the social and economic issues facing the various countries, resolving the missing issue faded into the background as being almost insignificant in comparison. If you were missing in 1931-1933, you were dead.

Ralph

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ss002d6252
More editing ....yes, that 564,000 is from medical statistics for all British and dominion troops in France and Flanders 1914-1918.

It is broken down into 381,000 killed in action ; 151,000 died of wounds and 32,000 died from disease or accidents : aggregate 564,000 WITHOUT the 145,000 unaccounted for missing, who raise the total deaths to 709,000. Please check me here..I'm not at home and don't have the volume to refer to.

Here's the relevant page :

post-51028-0-73348800-1402243090_thumb.j

EDIT:

Looking again the figures are illustrative as to what removed the man from the battlefield so I would think that the POW's who died after capture wouldn't be included in the death figure so there are bound to be a large proportion of men in the 300,000 missing and POW who died (especially the missing).

Craig

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phil andrade

Craig,

Those 144,898 missing....I would bet my last penny that they were all dead.

Phil (PJA)

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ss002d6252
Those 144,898 missing....I would bet my last penny that they were all dead.

I'm tempted to say the same - after 10 years or so the odds of most of the 145K men not being dead is very small. A few men 'disappeared' but it could only have been a couple of thousand at most.

I'm also tempted to look a bit further when I get the time.

Craig

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phil andrade

Reverting to the topic of German casualties, I am inclined to make some observations correlating the tabulation posted by Jack on post number 142 with the extent of Germany's strategic endeavour at various times.

Taking the figures for 1914-15 at face value, it's striking how high the casualty rate was. Actually in the order of 150,000 battle casualties per month average. Germany went for all out attacks during this period - in the West in 1914 and in the East in 1915. Perhaps Falkenhayn was reflecting on this rate of loss when he contemplated his offensive at Verdun. The grandiose efforts of 1914-15 had produced casualties that were, in the long run, unbearable. He emphasised the vulnerability of France in this respect - with good reason - but perhaps he sought a method of warfare that would diminish German casualties. The first half of 1916 did indeed result in lower monthly casualty rates for Germany...perhaps seventy five thousand per month, average, for all fronts : half the average for the previous seventeen months of war.The overall rate for the year dropped from an average of 150,000 per month in 1914-15 to about 115,000. In 1917 it was to drop yet further, to under 100,000 ( taking, I reiterate, the official compilation at face value). This clearly reflects the change in strategy from all out attack to one of retention and containment. The caveat here, of course, is that German expansion in the East in 1917 was grandiose....but at that point Russian resistance was weak, and the thing could be accomplished on the cheap. Another point I must emphasise is that Germany experienced frightening casualty rates in the period of July to October 1916 - about two hundred thousand per month. And this was rendered more unbearable by dint of having to fight on the defensive, both East and West. I have to wonder whether casualties entail more damage to morale if they are sustained on the defensive, with the sense that initiative is passing to the enemy. The French reaction to Verdun might exemplify this.

The 1918 experience is not properly reflected in the tables, because the figures are too incomplete after July, but I'm sure that the monthly average rivaled and probably exceeded that of the 1914-15 period. And these losses, coupled with the failure of the all out offensive in spring and early summer, were indeed to prove unbearable.

This is very much a " macro" survey on my part, unrefined by the more detailed analysis that serves to illustrate and authenticate ; but I hope my observations are valid and useful.

Phil (PJA)

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Ralph J. Whitehead

Here are some snap shots for 1918 losses. The 28th Reserve Division had to be reformed following 1 July 1916, following the heavy fighting in October 1916 and the last time, in late 1918 when the division received a large number of replacements within days of the end of the war.

In early 1918 the 28th Reserve Division was larger than all other divisions in the 17th Army combined. In the fighting in the first days of November, two of the regiments went into the fighting in the morning with 4,200 officers and men. At the end of the day these regiments could muster about 300 officers and men. It was considered the worst day for the division in the war. These are the losses that received the least attention in the army paperwork. There were too many losses, confusion reigned, records were lost and men did not have the time to perform the mountains of paperwork required considering survival was the top concern.

Ralph

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phil andrade

Ralph,

Many of those missing from the muster at the end of the day, would, I suspect, have voted against the war with their feet.

This is not to downplay the carnage.

I think we can be fairly confident that German losses killed, wounded/gassed and taken prisoner in the period July to November 1918 were well in excess of one million. That nearly four hundred thousand of these were prisoners at least reduced the proportion of fatalities ; but a vast number must still have perished. The high Allied casualty figures in those last few months attest the scale and intensity of the fighting.

Editing here : Churchill's analysis of German casualties in the table at the back of his World Crisis is of enormous value to anyone trying to conduct a survey. It is a controversial topic, especially since WSC was out to make a point and demonstrate how flawed the Allied attritional strategy had been. Despite this - or maybe because of it - Churchill went to pains to ensure that he gave full countenance to the severity of the German ordeal. He makes a good attempt to try and give measured estimates using the best information that the reichsarciv had available at the time. He gives a breakdown of 5,383,000 German casualties on the Western Front and 1,697,000 on the Russian and other fronts. He predicates this on the assumption that four fifths of the roughly half million additional casualties that were identified after the war should be attributed to the Western Front. This seems fair if we allow for roughly a quarter million of these belatedly posted losses being victims of the last months. The balance would be split roughly 150,000 for the West and 100,000 for the East, which looks about right. He then, in my opinion, makes an error by adding on another 140,000 to account for casualties inflicted by the Americans. This is a table that breaks down German casualties on the Western Front according to whether they were suffered against the Franco- Belgian or the British held sectors. There is no statement regarding the Americans. Surely the 140,000 would have been included in the half million additional, and he has effectively double counted, or added them on twice, so to speak. If we remove that contentious 140,000, the balance would equate to about five and a quarter million. In other words, three quarters of all the German casualties suffered on all fronts. The conviction grows in me that we tend to underestimate the damage inflicted by the Russians, who fought more effectively than some have depicted. Given the enormous losses suffered by the Austro Hungarians at the hands of the Russians, it is obvious that the Central Powers sustained terrific damage in the East. This is one aspect of the German experience that I would like to investigate further : the proportion of their casualties 1914-17 that were incurred fighting the Russians and Romanians, and, lest I forget, the Serbs.

Another edit : Reconsideration on my part re the additional losses suffered against Americans....Churchill was trying to synthesise data from Reich Archives with those from Central Enquiries bureau. The former was compiled separately, and maybe I am mistaken in my notion that the 140,000 attributed to the Americans is incorporated into the half million additional casualties revealed after the war. In any case, 140,000 seems rather on the low side. Whatever....I reckon that " in the round" Churchill's analysis is a remarkable piece of research that is a historiographical landmark.

Phil (PJA)

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phil andrade

Following on from my last points here, I am taken back at the large numbers of German soldiers from the Great War buried in military cemeteries in some of their " peripheral" theatres. Obviously, the great majority of German dead fell on the Western Front or fighting the Russians.

Look at these numbers, and bear in mind that these allude only to the dead that could be recovered. These are VdK figures :

Romania : 53,075

Former Yugoslavia : 14,200

Italy : 13,391

How come, I wonder, so many Germans died in Italy ? Their participation at Caporetto is famous, but other than that we don't hear much about their involvement on that front. Perhaps there was a constant token contingent there.

Taken in conjunction, those three lesser enemies account for more than eighty thousand dead ; if we translate that into overall casualties, we might be reaching into the realms of a quarter million. I realise that many of the dead in Romania would have been victims of Russian action ; but the overall total is on a scale not so very different from the total of British Empire deaths in the war against Turkey...although I confess I haven't checked that claim properly.

Phil (PJA)

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