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Officer deaths ratio to other ranks ..


shelley
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Why were deaths of officers so high in ratio to other ranks and did most of them come from wealthy families  ?

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4 hours ago, shelley said:

Why were deaths of officers so high in ratio to other ranks and did most of them come from wealthy families  ?

The Pre-war and early-war officers certainly tended to come from above the general working class. For example, territorial officers tended to be your local solicitors, magistrates, large business owners etc. As the war went on, the class distinctions dropped dramatically,

To some extent, officers were victims of their own roles - they were the people expected to get out there and lead the men. It was a dangerous place to be anyway, even without the obvious situation of being identifiable as an officer and thus even more of a direct target for the other side,

Craig

 

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German snipers were taught to aim at men with "thin legs" - breeches and longer boots rather than puttees and ankle boots, and also to look for the rank distinctions normally worn on cuffs. From about 1917 onwards officers were often encouraged to dress more like their men, and to carry rifles, but some disdained to do this, regarding it as evidence of "funk".

Incidentally, I think that tihis thread belongs outside Skindles.

Ron

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29 minutes ago, Ron Clifton said:

German snipers were taught to aim at men with "thin legs" - breeches and longer boots rather than puttees and ankle boots, and also to look for the rank distinctions normally worn on cuffs. From about 1917 onwards officers were often encouraged to dress more like their men, and to carry rifles, but some disdained to do this, regarding it as evidence of "funk".

Incidentally, I think that tihis thread belongs outside Skindles.

Ron

Moved to ‘ Great War Chat’

The Issue of Officer casualties has been discussed a number of times on the forum e.g.

When young men were seeking Commissions immediately on the declaration of war the first qualification was a public school education, grammar school boys were excluded so by definition the family must be wealthy. As the war progressed and quite rapidly these barriers fell, and men were commissioned from the ranks.  There is a great deal of literature on the development of officer training. For an overview see

https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/training-to-be-a-soldier/officer-training-in-the-british-army-of-1914-1918/

And a forum search including ‘six week subaltern’ will give more information.

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I looked at officer casualties the other day and using CWGC statistics, came up with a figure of 38,898 officer deaths in tge British Army during the conflict. Assuming the army on average was made up of 5 million men, that gave a death rate of 4.9 officers per day per million soldiers.

In an ongoing modern day conflict, it is reported that one of the combatant armies had lost 300 officers in 59 days, in an army of about 150,000.

That works out at 33.9 officer deaths per day per million combatants.

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16 minutes ago, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

In an ongoing modern day conflict, it is reported that one of the combatant armies had lost 300 officers in 59 days, in an army of about 150,000.

That works out at 33.9 officer deaths per day per million combatants.

CWGC figures are deaths, whereas the press are usually quoting casualties, rather than deaths, which are of course rather higher. In the First World War a general rule of thumb is that only about a third of casualties are deaths. I wonder if this rule is still useful? Even so, that gives a much higher death rate.

William 

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40 minutes ago, WilliamRev said:

CWGC figures are deaths, whereas the press are usually quoting casualties, rather than deaths, which are of course rather higher. In the First World War a general rule of thumb is that only about a third of casualties are deaths. I wonder if this rule is still useful? Even so, that gives a much higher death rate.

William 

Thank you William,

The figures I saw were deaths claimed by the other side in the conflict. Of course still not accurately verifiable by the outside world.
But I still thought they were interesting crude ball-park figures.

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Officer deaths in proportion to those of other  ranks in the BEF were much higher in 1914 than they were to be in 1918.

It’s tempting to attribute this to the more upper class characteristics of the officer cohort in the Regular Army, but I would contend that it reflects the nature of the battlefield which became increasingly dominated by artillery and rendered the role of the individual less conspicuous as warfare became more impersonal.

 

Let me put this to the test by referring to casualty statistics.

 

More to come,

 

Editing here : BEF, France and Flanders, 1914 ....... one officer killed for every fourteen men ; 1918, one for every nineteen men.  These have been rounded to simplify comparison, but I suspect they indicate changed firepower rather than social strata, although that was certainly a factor in the earlier part of the war.

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade
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  Thanks for replies 

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The simple answer is, is that they lead from the front.

TR

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On 29/04/2022 at 13:37, Dai Bach y Sowldiwr said:

In the First World War a general rule of thumb is that only about a third of casualties are deaths. I wonder if this rule is still useful?

Apparently it has existed, as a rule of thumb, at least since the time of Julius Caesar! The rules used by war-gamers (see the various books by Donald Featherstone) also apply it.

In modern conflicts, with rapid casualty evacuation by helicopter, I suspect that the number dying of wounds (as distinct from those killed outright) is much lower, and hence probably the overall proportion of deaths will also be lower.

Ron

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There is a corollary to this, Ron : better evacuation of badly wounded men can entail a higher death rate among the cases.

This reflects the ability to get dying soldiers into hospital, who in other circumstances  would have perished on the battlefield.

 

There are some statistics in the Australian Medical History which give a stark example of this in different phases of the Bullecourt fighting in April and May 1917

Phil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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