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Remembered Today:

Wiltshire - How many men went to war?


Gareth Davies

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What I do know:

- The population of Wiltshire in 1914 was around 290k.  

- Between 10 and 12k men from Wiltshire died in the war.  

 

What I don't know:

- How many men from Wiltshire went to war?

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I have it in mind that the national fatality rate was about 10% of those who served. Assuming that Wiltshire was not out of kilter, it suggests 100k or so serving. 

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Yes, that's the fatality figure I had in mind too.  Does 1/3 (100k) of the population (300k) having served sound right? 

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30 minutes ago, Gareth Davies said:

 Does 1/3 (100k) of the population (300k) having served sound right? 

Frankly, on reflection, no it doesnt.

 

Assuming a broadly equal gender split, you've only got 150k males. And, of those, you've got however many under/overage for military service - babies at one end of the scale, the very elderly at the other.

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I don't have anything to compare it.  

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59 minutes ago, Gareth Davies said:

Yes, that's the fatality figure I had in mind too.  Does 1/3 (100k) of the population (300k) having served sound right? 

 

That, 100K, sounds abit high:

"By the end of the First World War almost 1 in 4 of the total male population of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had joined up, over five million men. Of these men, 2.67 million joined as Volunteers and 2.77 million as conscripts (although some volunteered after conscription was introduced and would most likely have been conscripted anyway)."  

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recruitment_to_the_British_Army_during_the_First_World_War

Total UK population in 1914 was approx 46M

 

Assuming the 290K figure is sound and a roughly equal gender split that gives a male population of 145K.  Assuming 1 in 4 served that would give a figure of 36K serving - which makes 12K fatalities a rate of 33%. So were:

  • the population of Wiltshire unlucky and suffered a greater fatality rate than the national average?
  • the ratio of male to female in Wiltshire higher than an equal split
  • a greater % of Wiltshire men serving than the national average (maybe not unreasonable for a rural county? was farming a protected occupation?)

Something else which I haven't thought of?

Any combination of the above?

Or my maths might just be way out!

 

Regards, Paul

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27 minutes ago, pjwmacro said:

 

That, 100K, sounds abit high:

"By the end of the First World War almost 1 in 4 of the total male population of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had joined up, over five million men. Of these men, 2.67 million joined as Volunteers and 2.77 million as conscripts (although some volunteered after conscription was introduced and would most likely have been conscripted anyway)."  

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recruitment_to_the_British_Army_during_the_First_World_War

Total UK population in 1914 was approx 46M

 

Assuming the 290K figure is sound and a roughly equal gender split that gives a male population of 145K.  Assuming 1 in 4 served that would give a figure of 36K serving - which makes 12K fatalities a rate of 33%. So were:

  • the population of Wiltshire unlucky and suffered a greater fatality rate than the national average?
  • the ratio of male to female in Wiltshire higher than an equal split
  • a greater % of Wiltshire men serving than the national average (maybe not unreasonable for a rural county? was farming a protected occupation?)

Something else which I haven't thought of?

Any combination of the above?

Or my maths might just be way out!

 

Regards, Paul

Your maths looks ok to me.

Wiltshire had 143,685 males on the 1911 census so the adult male population is obviously slightly less but it not enough to explain the figures overall.

Craig

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Broad rule of thumb is that males of military age comprise one fifth of total population at the outbreak of a four year conflict.

 

By that criterion, Wiltshire would have had 58,000 men available by dint of age for military service in 1914 : if ten thousand of them died, their fatality rate would have been markedly worse than the national average, which equates to about one in eight of all who served, and no more than one tenth of all men who were of military age 1914-18.

 

Wiltshire military traditions might well account for some of that disparity, but it is hard to see how nearly double the national average perished .

 

Perhaps many who died in Wiltshire regiments were from elsewhere in Britain ?

 

Phil

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Where does the Wiltshire death figure come from and what does it cover (Wiltshire based units, place of birth given as Wiltshire etc )

 

Craig

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Craig best me to it - the casualty figure looks high. A search at CWGC for casualties with WILTS in the additional information gets 2802 hits. Looking at the data for the biggest memorial in my area the equivalent hit rate is 42% of the casualties on the memorial.  It's a stupidly small sample but this would equate to around 6,600 Wilts casualties - which is far more in line with national figures.

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Ah, the figure also includes those men from abroad who were buried in Wiltshire as well as navy and air force deaths. Trying to pick out the 'foreigners' etc would require a search of CWGC, I'm not sure how many would be buried in Wiltshire. It also includes those with a 'connection' to Wiltshire, who are going to be even more of a nightmare to pick out.

Craig

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There are around 2000 GW burials in Wiltshire so let's amend the figure to 10000.  It doesn't alter the maths significantly.

Edited by Gareth Davies
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1 hour ago, Phil Wood said:

... A search at CWGC for casualties with WILTS in the additional information gets 2802 hits...

If this search identifies members of the Wiltshire Regiment, it does not follow they came from Wiltshire, given the posting of recruits to units where they were needed and with whose geographical identity they may have had no connection.

1 hour ago, ss002d6252 said:

Ah, the figure also includes those men from abroad who were buried in Wiltshire as well as navy and air force deaths. Trying to pick out the 'foreigners' etc would require a search of CWGC, I'm not sure how many would be buried in Wiltshire. It also includes those with a 'connection' to Wiltshire, who are going to be even more of a nightmare to pick out.

Craig

Happy to oblige.

1 hour ago, Gareth Davies said:

There are around 2000 GW burials in Wiltshire so let's amend the figure to 10000.  It doesn't alter the maths significantly.

The War Graves of the British Empire, published in 1930, records 1,971 war graves in the county, 1,114 of which were in six burial grounds directly connected with army camps and airfields. The break-down of 21 categories includes:

 

soldiers of UK units  848 (most of whom came from outside Wiltshire)

RAF  72  (most of whom came from outside Wiltshire))

Royal Navy  36 (presumably mostly from Wiltshire)

Royal Marines  11 (presumably mostly from Wiltshire)

WRAF  4

QAIMNS  1

Territorial Force Nursing Service 1

VAD 1

 

Also there were 636 AIF members, 173 NZEF members, 74 Canadian military forces and 97 German soldiers (these last later being dis-interred and re-buried at Cannock Chase) - plus more single-figure numbers for other categories (eg Belgian Army, Australian munition worker).

 

I suspect that this further muddies the waters?

 

Moonraker

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There is similar problems with the number of "Scottish" Deaths on the Scottish National War Memorial as a number of discussions on this website will testify.  When I analysed the men on the Galashiels War Memorial  I founds that about 70% of those listed on the memorial actually had Galashiels addresses and I suspect that even less were actually living in Galashiels at the time of enlistment as they were mostly young men who were probably living in digs in the cities associated with the regiments the joined.  

 

I think your biggest problem is how wide the compilers of the list of Wiltshire cast their net.

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I would recommend using the English national averages; for England 11.57% of the population enlisted in the Army or 24.02% of the male population. I can't imagine why Wiltshire would be out of kilter with the English average. Clearly some approximation for the Senior Service needs to be made.

 

On Craig's figure for Wiltshire's male population of 142,685 this generates a military service population of 34,513.

 

By way of reference and to provide some idea of national variance the figures for Wales are 10.96% and 21.52% and Scotland are 11.50% and 23.71%. The implied variance across the UK would be very small. SMEBE page 363

 

The largest variances occurred in counties with large scale heavy industries where exemptions from the MSA were higher; coal mining, metalworking and among with the textile sector. There is a separate thread that attempts to establish which counties were over or under represented. It is a largely a dual function of industry type and age distribution within those industries (men of military age). There are some large skews in the industry data, for example although the textile sector was underrepresented, this is largely because the workforce had a disproportionate number of female workers, children and men above the military age. The industry sector that had the highest representation was "commercial". I suspect if ther was a slight bias, Wiltshire might be slightly over represented relative to the average due to its low dependence on heavy industry. 

 

CWGC and SGDW data is wholly unreliable as a basis for extrapolating data. A large percentage of the data has no place of birth, enlistment or residence (SDGW) or residence of next of kin (CWGC). 

 

M

 

Edit, for some reason the Wiltshire Regt had very large surpluses of volunteers in Aug , Sep 194 which resulted in several hundred Wiltshire men born and bred being diverted to the under manned Irish Regiments. I have lots of data on K1 recruiting by Regiment. Wiltshire did rather well. M

Edited by Guest
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3 hours ago, Gareth Davies said:

The figure comes from here:  http://www.wiltshiresoldiers.co.uk

 

 

 

This will undoubtedly include men who served in Wiltshire units but were from outside Wiltshire. SDGW and CWGC trawls will provide an inkling of the relative proportions. As mentioned upstream the SNWM suffers from this type of inflation; lots of Englishmen in Scottish units. 

Edited by Guest
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8 minutes ago, QGE said:

... A large percentage of the data has no place of birth, enlistment or residence (SDGW) or residence of next of kin (CWGC)...

For once, a good old-fashioned printed book gives a better impression than new-fangled technology. Glancing through The War Graves of the British Empire (whose data is presumably perpetuated on the CWGC website), it seems that the addresses of next-of-kin, usually parents, are given for most British service-people and for many from overseas.

 

Moonraker

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12 hours ago, Moonraker said:

For once, a good old-fashioned printed book gives a better impression than new-fangled technology. Glancing through The War Graves of the British Empire (whose data is presumably perpetuated on the CWGC website), it seems that the addresses of next-of-kin, usually parents, are given for most British service-people and for many from overseas.

 

Moonraker

 

We can be very exact on this. There are 5,077 men in the CWGC data recorded as died serving in the Wiltshire Regiment. This sub set of CWGC data will be the largest representative sample that includes Wiltshire men by a very long way.... 37.7% of the entires have no record of the place of residence of the next of kin... The comments are blank. In hard numbers this means 1,912 of the 5,077 men could have come from any county. We simply don't know without doing a vast amount of trawling of the casualty data in the contemporary newspapers. 

 

I would reinforce my earlier comments; using CWGC or SGGW data to extrapolate estimates will not generate an accurate answer as the gaps in the data are simply too large; more than one in three in the case of the CWGC data. M

 

Edit 1. Filtering the 5,077 men on the Wiltshire Regt CWGC data for 'Wilts' or 'Wiltshire' generates only 841 men who have next of kin living in Wiltshire. To save you the calculation that is 16.6% of the total. Put another way there is no hard evidence in the CWGC data that 83.4% of the men came from Wiltshire. 

 

Edit 2. A further refiementof the data (Couty is not always show) reveals of the 5,077 some 3,015 men have next of kin or place of residence or place of birth recorded. Of these 3,015 only 43% have connections with Wiltshire. (top 10 locations are shown below). So the reality is that less than half of the men on the Wiltshire Regt CWGC database have a tangible link with Wiltshire. I have no doubt that other County Line Infantry Regiments will have plenty of Wiltshiremen but this graphically illustrates the rather diffuse allocation of men, particularly during the conscription period. Having done this exercise elsewhere I am confident that this sample is not unusual. The spillover from neighbouring counties simply reflects the consolidation of conscripts withing larger Districts. The London and Warwickshire (read Birmingham) simply reflect the location of surplus manpower form the urban sprawls who were diverted to regiments  anchored on less populous counties. MG

 

Wiltshire

43%

1303

London

11%

333

Hampshire

7%

211

Warwickshire

5%

138

Gloucestershire

3%

104

Dorsetshire

3%

103

Somersetshire

3%

99

Berkshire

3%

76

Devonshire

2%

62

Oxfordshire

2%

52

 

In case the maths is not absolutely clear only 25.7% of the men on the Wiltshire Regt CWGC data can be positively connected with Witlshire. 

 

While many of those with no recorded residence or place of birth would have come from Wiltshire (and I have little doubt that the majority did), we simply can't rely on the CWGC data for accurate guidance.

 

MG

Edited by Guest
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Separately, there are 20,267 men recorded on the Wiltshire Regt BWM & VM roll. Many will not have come from Wiltshire and many Wiltshiremen would have served in other units (the Irish example earlier being a case in point). It does however provide an order of magnitude that might suggest 36,000 is closer than 100, 000 wiltshiremen served. M

Edited by Guest
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4 hours ago, Moonraker said:

If this search identifies members of the Wiltshire Regiment, it does not follow they came from Wiltshire, given the posting of recruits to units where they were needed and with whose geographical identity they may have had no connection.

 

The search does not identify members of the Wiltshire Regiment per se - it identifies men with next of kin living in Wiltshire in the 1920s when the IWGC was offering them the chance to add an inscription.  Some will have migrated to the county since the war, others will have migrated out.

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Thank you all.

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