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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Quiet Areas

Steve Bramley

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Can anyone give me a rough estimate for the casualty rates during trench tours in so called quiet sectors, during the war?

I would suspect that they became less as the war progressed due to experience?

is this theory feasable?



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I've recently been doing some research into various Cheshire battalions. Several spent fairly lengthy periods around Ploegsteert which is, I think, generally accepted as being a quiet sector.

I've no firm statisitics but would say one fatality every day or two in the front or support line.

I've even fewer thoughts about whether casualty rates dropped as the war progressed, but suspect that as most deaths will have been due to shelling, I suspect this may not be the case. That said, there seems to be some evidence that, in the very early weeks of a Battalion's arrival in the field, there are more deaths from gunshot wounds. It seems that, for about the first month, Battalion war diaries seem to record the nature of death (and there is fairly regualr mention of gunshot), but then the detailed entries stop - presumably as deaths become commonplace.


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Thanks John,

I have been researching the 1/5th Lincs.

What you say about a Battalions early days seems to be true. The Lincolns in the Kemmel sector between April and June had 13 men killed and 74 wounded in what amounted to 40 days in the frontline (50 including the night of relieving). Approximately 80% of these were gunshot wounds.

I think in-experience and a lot of work repairing trenches, communication trenches and building dug-outs, with the enemy in a position which overlooked this work added to what seems to me a high number of casualties.

(A further 12 were killed and 24 wounded due to a mine explosion- several wounded by gunshot at attempting rescue- and a further 6 wounded in an accident while in billets during their time in this sector).

Was losing almost 10% during a spell in a 'quiet' area the norm?

I suppose with what you add about shellfire later in the war perhaps the proportion of wounded to killed would be less? Will no doubt discover this as far as my Battalion is concerned as research progresses.



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You raise an interesting question, but I suggest the real issue is how did casualty rates vary from day to day on a 'formation in contact' basis.

A little over 15 years ago an American academic, George Kuhn, undertook a study of casualty rates based on historical analyses over several centuries. He concluded that formations (from battalion up to army (I think)) could only sustain a limited length of time at high intensity of battle. Thus (and the following figures are examples, not Kuhn's definitive work) on a battle day, a battalion might sustain a 24% KCMIA; its parent brigade's rate that day would be 8%; the corps rate 3% and the army, 1.3%.

His analysis also suggested that, typically, if a division was engaged at high intensity, then the neighbouring divisions would be at a lower level of activity. In today's world, this makes sense.

Mindful that his study covered several centuries, and that his figures are aggregated, his study offers data suitable for current planning assumptions - midful that modern doctrine aims to damage the rear areas in order dislocate the fighting component.

Hope this makes sense.

Chris :rolleyes:

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This topic IS interesting! But problem also occurs when thinking of the term "quiet area", it needs more defining. Several parts of the front maybe saw bitter fighting in the first months of the war and then after horrible casualty-rates remained the rest of the war, relatively "quiet".

But, yes I understood the question! I believe that most of the casulaties in the "quieter" areas were caused by occasional shellings and sniper-fire... and of course in raids and patrols, that were send out to simply find out why the area was so quiet.

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