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Casualty Figures British Isles WW1


Gunner R.A.

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Hi, it's been a while since I posted on the forum.

Could anyone please help me with the following question?

How many men from the British Isles were killed in action or died of wounds during the war?

I appreciate that this subject has been broached in the past, and I have done the obvious and searched older posts. The best I could find was as follows,

The figures are taken from "Statistics 1914-1920 of the Military Effort of the British Empire during The Great War."

British Casualties:- Number of soldiers who lost their lives in and through the Great War. Officers 37,452, Other Ranks 664,958, Total 702,410

I am interested to know if the Pals generally agree with these figures

Any help with the above would be greatly appreciated.

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The figures that you quote are certainly a good starting point and the ones that most people use. I seem to remember that there have been debates over whether some officers were missed out/counted twice because so many died when attached to other units. Also, to what extent the figures included men who returned to the UK and subsequently died of their wounds after a while. I have no doubt that there are other debates surrounding the accuracy of the figures.

William 

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An important feature of the figure cited in the OP is  that it refers to army only.

The additional deaths in the Royal Navy and the Air Force would increase the aggregate to about 745, 000.

Then deaths from the Mercantile Marine need to be considered .

The total is thereby raised to around 760,000.

These, it must be stated, include deaths from all causes : accidents and illnesses took tens of thousands of lives.

 

That said, the remarkable feature of the British death toll 1914-18 is the extraordinary preponderance of battle fatalities: in the army, which accounted for nearly 95% of all British deaths, 88% of all the deaths were directly due to enemy action; killed in action, died of wounds or gas poisoning, or missing in action and subsequently presumed dead.  This was a huge difference from previous wars.

I’m agitated about the meaning of the phrase “ British Isles “ in this context. I just don’t know about the inclusion or otherwise of Ireland in the figures. 

 

Significantly, CWGC data give much higher figures of U.K. deaths. This reflects the  inclusion of Colonies and Crown Dependencies under the aegis of U.K.

I’ve written an article for the WFA Bulletin on the subject of British Dead in the Great War which I’ll be happy to share if any of the pals are interested.

 

Phil

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by phil andrade
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4 hours ago, phil andrade said:

I’m agitated about the meaning of the phrase “ British Isles “ in this context. I just don’t know about the inclusion or otherwise of Ireland in the figures.

'Statistics 1914-1920 of the Military Effort of the British Empire during The Great War' gives the figure quoted (702,410 deaths) as that for the British Isles, so it definitely includes Ireland. Counting Irish deaths separately would be a tricky thing - it would not just be a case of counting deaths in Irish units since so many Irish served in English Scottish and Welsh regiments, and indeed plenty of British men are to be found in Irish ones.

Another area of difficulty is the Canadian divisions. Even from the beginning they contained a number of British personnel in ancillary roles, and later on drafts of British conscripts were fed into the Canadian infantry. Were fatalities of these counted among British or Canadian deaths?

William

 

Later edit: Now that I have read your post again Phil, it is clear that you know a great deal more about all this than me, and I think that anything that you have to say on the subject would be of great interest.

 

Edited by WilliamRev
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Thanks, William.

The purpose of my article was to offer an interpretation of the varying data dealing with the British death roll, suggesting reasons for why the numbers differ, and seeking to identify not only how many died, but who they were, and where, when and how they died.

It’s a cursory survey, not delving deeply into myriad statistics, but offering an interpretation that I hope might lead to reflection and a basis for comparison with other wars.

 

Phil

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, phil andrade said:

An important feature of the figure cited in the OP is  that it refers to army only.

The additional deaths in the Royal Navy and the Air Force would increase the aggregate to about 745, 000.

Then deaths from the Mercantile Marine need to be considered .

The total is thereby raised to around 760,000.

These, it must be stated, include deaths from all causes : accidents and illnesses took tens of thousands of lives.

 

That said, the remarkable feature of the British death toll 1914-18 is the extraordinary preponderance of battle fatalities: in the army, which accounted for nearly 95% of all British deaths, 88% of all the deaths were directly due to enemy action; killed in action, died of wounds or gas poisoning, or missing in action and subsequently presumed dead.  This was a huge difference from previous wars.

I’m agitated about the meaning of the phrase “ British Isles “ in this context. I just don’t know about the inclusion or otherwise of Ireland in the figures. 

 

Significantly, CWGC data give much higher figures of U.K. deaths. This reflects the  inclusion of Colonies and Crown Dependencies under the aegis of U.K.

I’ve written an article for the WFA Bulletin on the subject of British Dead in the Great War which I’ll be happy to share if any of the pals are interested.

 

Phil

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for the reply Phil and the information it contained. All very interesting. I, for one, would like to read your article.

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I would like to see your article too Phil.

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All that’s needed now is for me to learn how to post it onto the forum.

I might need a lot of assistance, if need be, from my grandchildren !

 

Phil

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This looks to be a magnificent effort Phil just from a quick skip through. I will give it the attention it deserves as soon as I can. Thanks matey/

Pete.

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The numbers for the 26 Counties of the Irish Republic stands at 32,000. This was updated recently when it was decided to include munition workers, barrack sergeants, civilian workers in canteens, driving for the army etc. It also includes those who died between 1914 to 1921 who served and died after service, no matter what the cause (over 300 of these accepted by In From The Cold Project). If the update is taken from the list it stands at 30,000.

I hope these figures are a help to you

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Thanks for your kind comments, Pete ; and thanks to you, too, museumtown, for putting the Irish Republic numbers on the record. They equate to four or  five per cent of the British Isles total.  Yes, those figures are a help to me.

I submit my article with some diffidence, fully aware that there are flaws in it and that it might be seen as too amateurish; but I put heart and soul into it and hope that it might encourage debate and reflection. 

 

Phil

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Hello Phil,

So, what would be your answer if someone asked you how many men from the British Isles were killed in action/died of wounds) during the war?

Almost 750,000

Approximately 750,000

More than 750,000

 

Regards,

Pete.

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Pete, 

Off the cuff, I would answer that 650,000 were killed in action or died from wounds, and close to 100,000 died from illness, accident etc.

That wouldn’t include merchant seamen. 

 

Very close to three quarters of a million deaths from all causes, just over 700,000 in the army, of whom  nearly 620,000 were killed in action/ died of wounds.

 

Phil

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Phil,

I found your article both interesting and sensitive, and you raise numerous interesting points.

Like you, I was sceptical when I first heard about the claims that the Scottish death rate was so much higher than the rest of the UK. If I remember correctly it rested on the assumption that nearly everyone who served in a Scottish regiment was from Scotland. Ages ago my own researches showed that in the Royal Scots Fusiliers the two regular battalions comprised (if I remember correctly) 35-40 per cent of men from England and Ireland (but just one or two Welshmen); and whilst the Territorial battalions were indeed almost entirely from Scotland, the New Army battalions were at least 25-30 per cent non-Scottish. This is just one regiment I know, but it demonstrates the pitfalls of making assumptions about men's nationality based on their cap badges.

William

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48 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

Pete, 

Off the cuff, I would answer that 650,000 were killed in action or died from wounds, and close to 100,000 died from illness, accident etc.

That wouldn’t include merchant seamen. 

 

Very close to three quarters of a million deaths from all causes, just over 700,000 in the army, of whom  nearly 620,000 were killed in action/ died of wounds.

 

Phil

Thanks, Phil, interesting and really appreciated,

 

Pete.

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What I’ve been doing is extrapolating from other people’s heavy lifting.

 

It’s as if I’ve synthesised the efforts of others.

 

One of our recently deceased members, for example, did amazing work on exposing the hyped up claims about the Scottish death rate. Martin Gillot, if memory serves me, was his name.  A fantastic contributor to the interpretation of these difficult statistics.

The fundamental break that the Great War represents is the mind boggling application of violence to the composition of the death toll.

The toll of other wars has rivalled it in proportionate terms, but this was attributable to the ravages of disease.

The preponderance of battlefield massacre makes the Great War unique in the record in so far as its military fatalities are concerned.

 

Even the Second Word War did not rival it in this sense.  The Soviet Union’s stupefying military death toll 1941-45, for example ,was “only” two thirds attributable to death in battle :  although the actual number of Russia’s battle deaths was well in excess of six million.

 

Editing again : let me make my point by going backwards in time from the Great War. Fifty years earlier, the American Civil War had resulted in an estimated 620,000 military deaths from a population in the 1860 census  of the -  about to be fractured -  USA of 31 million. In proportionate terms, this was a heavier toll than the 745,000 military dead from the British Isles 1914-18 .  But barely one third of the soldiers who died in the American Civil War had been killed in battle, compared with nearly nine tenths of their British counterparts in the Great War.

 

Phil

 

 

 

 

Edited by phil andrade
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Good work Phil. 
 

a subject that never ceases to be of interest and cause discussion.
 

cheers,

Derek.  

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Thanks Derek.

 

It bothers me that I’d made no mention of civilians who were killed by Zeppelin and Gotha raids, or in the bombardment of the coastal towns in December 1914. Then there were British civilians who were victims of the sinking of the Lusitania, of course.

 

Phil

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19 hours ago, phil andrade said:

What I’ve been doing is extrapolating from other people’s heavy lifting.

 

It’s as if I’ve synthesised the efforts of others.

 

One of our recently deceased members, for example, did amazing work on exposing the hyped up claims about the Scottish death rate. Martin Gillot, if memory serves me, was his name.  A fantastic contributor to the interpretation of these difficult statistics.

The fundamental break that the Great War represents is the mind boggling application of violence to the composition of the death toll.

The toll of other wars has rivalled it in proportionate terms, but this was attributable to the ravages of disease.

The preponderance of battlefield massacre makes the Great War unique in the record in so far as its military fatalities are concerned.

 

Even the Second Word War did not rival it in this sense.  The Soviet Union’s stupefying military death toll 1941-45, for example ,was “only” two thirds attributable to death in battle :  although the actual number of Russia’s battle deaths was well in excess of six million.

 

Editing again : let me make my point by going backwards in time from the Great War. Fifty years earlier, the American Civil War had resulted in an estimated 620,000 military deaths from a population in the 1860 census  of the -  about to be fractured -  USA of 31 million. In proportionate terms, this was a heavier toll than the 745,000 military dead from the British Isles 1914-18 .  But barely one third of the soldiers who died in the American Civil War had been killed in battle, compared with nearly nine tenths of their British counterparts in the Great War.

 

Phil

 

 

 

 

Excellent work, Phil.

Could I ask what your thoughts are with regard to the total number of killed in action /Died of wounds for all combatants (Allies and Central Powers) during the war?

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If you’ll allow me to pitch a “ ballpark “ answer, my belief is that ten million military personnel from all belligerents lost their lives, of whom about eight million were actual battle fatalities , being killed or died from wounds.

The Ottoman, Balkan and USA forces were conspicuous for having a higher proportion of deaths from disease than the other participants.

There were tragically large numbers of wounded and invalids who succumbed in the immediate post war months and years 

To cite a striking example, I have seen one tabulation of Italian war dead which indicates that eighty thousand of their veterans died in the year and a half between the end of the fighting in 1918 and the early summer of 1920. 
 

Phil

 

 

 

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Please pitch your questions and your comments, folks.

There’s so much scope for discussion and, too often, revision in the way these melancholy figures can be interpreted.

If I’ve made some glaring mistakes, or been reckless or ignorant in some of my comments, don’t be reluctant to say so.

 

Phil

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