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Charles Fair

Casualties in an infantry battalion 1915-18

What proportion of men going overseas with an infantry battalion in March 1915 would be killed or wounded?  

82 members have voted

  1. 1. A typical infantry battalion goes overseas in March 1915. Please give your best estimate of the proportion of these that would be killed, missing presumed killed, died other causes or wounded between then and the end if 1918

    • Up to 20%
      2
    • 21% to 30%
      2
    • 31% to 40%
      9
    • 41% to 50%
      8
    • 51% to 60%
      8
    • 61% to 70%
      15
    • 71% to 80%
      14
    • 81% to 90%
      11
    • 91% to 100%
      14


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Charles Fair

To explain this question further here is the definition to use:

An infantry battalion goes to the Western Front on 9/10 March 1915. It is 959 other ranks and 27 officers strong. It is part of the 47th London Division and goes 'over the top' on various occasions such as Loos, High Wood, Eaucourt L'Abbaye, and several times in the 100 days. It is in the front line for German attacks at Bourlon Wood and on 21 March 1918.

In 44 months on the Western Front the battalion spent about 40 days in close and active contact with the German Army. By 'close and active contact' I mean that it was involved either in attack, defence, trench raiding etc. i.e. days and nights of higher risk. A quiet day manning a quiet sector of the front line is not included.

Of this original contingent - the "March 1915 men" - what proportion will be killed and/or wounded by the end of the war?

Please note the software has cut off the poll question. Your estimate should include:

* Killed

* Died of wounds

* Missing, presumed killed

* Died of other causes e.g. accident and disease

* Wounded at least once

I will post the analysis of what happened to this contingent in a couple of days time.

Charles

Edited by Charles Fair

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John_Hartley

I've voted with the knowledge of 2 battalions of Manchesters (one Service, one TF) which has the figures either in its war diary or Bn history.

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Ken Lees

I've based my answer on a my study of one TF Battalion which went to France 2 days after the one above. I will be interested to see your analysis, Charles.

It is interesting to note the spread of estimates so far.

Ken

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Derek Robertson

It's a very interesting spread of guestimates so far.

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Clive Maier

The poll covers all theatres then?

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Ken Lees

Clive, I think the poll covers the Western Front - as Charles explained in his post.

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Charles Fair

Clive - yes, it is just the Western Front as per my explanatory post above.

Intereesting and wide range of responses so far....

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Desmond7

I've voted - but I would ask that it be borne in mind that I have a fair few boys who are wounded two and three times .. and then killed.

How does that fit in?

Des

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Charles Fair
I would ask that it be borne in mind that I have a fair few boys who are wounded two and three times .. and then killed.

Consider it in terms of their ultimate fate - this battalion has exactly the same, with a number being wounded at Loos, again on the Somme, and then being killed at Bourlon Wood or later.

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Desmond7

Charles I have more than 200 whom I know joined a battalion in one day. Of those we are talking 137 who can be described as casualties at one time or another.

Genuine numbers by the way. According to weekly war reports in local paper. Load of ticking and crossing to establish that some time ago!

Hope that is of use. Reme,ber talking everything from trench fever to shell shock to GSW to the final ticket.

Des

And if I could vote again, I'd go 'up'

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jim_davies

Charles,

Would be very interested to see your results. I'm tracking to track down the fate of the original members of the 4th Lincs, and have so far only found two originals still with the battalion in May 1918...

Jim

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shaymen
And if I could vote again, I'd go 'up'

So would I.

Glyn

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Charles Fair

Keep the guesstimates coming. I'll post the data for the 19th Londons tomorrow night.

Charles

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Owen D

It's got to be 91-100%

I looked into deaths of 4th Gren Gds (see WFA Stand To! No.35 page35).

They served at Loos, Somme ,3rd Ypres,Cambrai ,March offensive 1918 and wiped out April 18. (MaxUK will know that one.)

Total deaths 951.

Wounded don't know but if someone can tell be I'd like to know.

I can only see a handful of 1915 men being left. They'd have the cushy jobs at Bn Hq,transport,cooks etc.

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Max

I have based my answer on an analysis of a 3rd Battalion war diary. This shows that over a 12 months period between 1500 and 2000 men were sent to both front line battalions. The answer has to be between 90 and 100% but this would assume that the casualty rate was spread evenly across the battalion, it may have been that 50% of the men received no wounds whatsoever and the other 50% received several wounds.

Andy

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Desmond7

Worth taking that 'cushy number' point on board too. They might have 'gone in' as riflemen etc but a fair number must have been found to me more useful elsewhere? Clerks etc?

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Terry

From my searches of CEF battalions, it would appear that well over 60% of the men became casualties. A couple of examples of units that suffered especially high losses:

10th Battalion (1st Division) = 5390 all ranks served with the unit, of whom 4572 (85%) became casualties, including 1325 fatalities.

46th Battalion (4th Division) = 5374 all ranks served; casualties 4917 (91.5%), including 1433 killed.

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Charles Fair

Here are the figures for the 19th Londons, based on 27 officers and 959 other ranks arriving in France on 10 March:

%

21.4 killed in action

7.3 died of wounds

1.2 died other causes

23.2 discharged wounded

11.5 discharged causes other than wounds (mainly sick)

3.1 term of engagement

0.4 pow

0.5 deserted

31.3 'other survivors' (i.e. I havent yet been able to find any other information about their fate)

This gives a total of 53.1%, to which should be added an extra 0.2% to allow for one of the POWs and one of the deserters who I know were both wounded - so for the purposes of the poll between 51 and 60%.

This really should be considered as a minimum and is likely to be revised upwards. For example, the lists of wounded in the local paper are too short when compared with various war diary figures. Some of the lightly wounded (flesh wounds) would perhaps not have received the SWB. How many of the sick had conditions that were brought on by life in the trenches (effects of gas?) and died prematurely? What about the psychologically damaged? I know or suspect of a couple of suicides in the 1920s.

Later I will post some figures on how many of the '10th March men' were still there at the Armistice.

Charles

Sources:

1) Nominal roll of 10th March men created from: 1915 Star Rolls for the 19th London Regt in WO329, also 19th London men found in the 1915 Star Rolls of MGC, Labour Corps, AOC, MFP, MMP etc.

2) cross checked against:

Silver War Badge roll to gain cause of discharge

SDGW and CWGC

lists of wounded from the St Pancras Gazette

Edited by Charles Fair

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Clive Maier

Charles,

Your figures are close to an all-theatres average. We could expect the average to be heavily weighted by the Western Front experience.

post-857-1136984934.gif

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Tom Thorpe

The figures for the 853 other ranks of the first contingent of the 1/13 London Regiment (Kensingtons) sent to France on 4 November 1914 are:

Died of wounds 4%

KIA 20%

Died 2%

Discharged sick or with wounds during the war 9%

Discharged at the end of engagement 3%

With the Bn at the end of the war 5%

Commissioned 7%

Transferred, re enlisted or attached to other units 10%

POW 2%

Men who survived the war and on whom data is still to be collected 38%

Officers have still to be collated.

Sources: WO 329 1925, WO 319 1926, WO 329 1927, SWB rolls 329 3160-3178, WO 2483, WO 93 1730.

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Muerrisch

I imagine Clives figures are all arms?

Famous photo of 2 RWF taken early 1919 of 'the Aug 1914 originals still with the battalion' has ten men only.

Note however that many, including Frank Richards, also served and survived throughout but were well gone by then.

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John_Hartley

The War Diary of 1/6th Manchester, for January 1918, records that there were three original members who had never left plus 131 who had returned (preumably after wounds, etc). This is the last month in which the information is recorded in this way. Of course many originals fell at Gallipoli, so may not be relevent for this thread.

The Battalion History of 21/Manchester records that at 11/11/18 there were 28 originals still present.

John

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Clive Maier
I imagine Clives figures are all arms?

Yes, the whole thing.

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Guest

Hi all.

Hard to break down an estimate - I suppose alot depends on which engagements your particular Battalion took part in??

My interest, 10th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, suffered terribly within the first ten months of landing in France.

Following the Somme offensive, out of original Service Battalion strength, only 2 Officers, 1 C.S.M., 3 Sjts and 83 other ranks remained as part of a 'composite' Battalion roll call on the morning of the 2nd July 1916.

Further entries on my roll show that alot more of these men succumbed later in the conflict.

Later in the war, the vast number of casualties, especially at Ypres in 1917, were men from English line Regiments who had come over on draft following the decimation of their own parent Battalions. In this case alone, approximately 75% of the casualties were non-Ulstermen (but still South Belfast Volunteers!!!).

Good Luck in your quest!!

Phil.

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Charles Fair

Following up with a few comments on turnover

As stated above, the 1/19th Londons had nearly 1,000 'originals' in March 1915. Detailed records kept on units in the 47 Division A&Q War Diary (WO 95 2706 and 2707) show that just over 4,500 reinforcements passed through the ranks of the 1/19th between March 1915 and Nov 1918. Total killed in the battalion was about 950, and wounded was about 2,300.

The London Regiment medal rolls for the BW&V Medals are extremely useful in that for each man they list the dates that he was with each unit. For example:

611234 Pte Bloggs, Joseph 19th London Pte 1234 (1a) 10.3.1915 to 11.11.1918

I have found 81 men who have merely 10.3.1915 to 11.11.1918 and thus appear to have never left the battalion apart from leave.

81 seems high, especially as the battalion came out of Bourlon Wood in December 1917 with only 6 officers and 60 other ranks. Of these, 3 officers and 30 ORs reported sick the next day. I do know of a number of old soldiers who landed cushy numbers with the tranport section, the QMs department etc. These men would not have been in Bourlon Wood, but even so I doubt there were 81 in total.

I have 2 possible explanations:

1. Away from the battalion, but not the divisional area. My grandfather was actually sick for a week in March 1916 and went to a hospital within the 47th Divisional area - because of this he was never considered SOS the battalion. Of the 81 I have so far found 5 that were listed as wounded in the local paper. However none of these 5 received the SWB and may have been lightly wounded, and so perhaps never went outside the divisional area.

2. I have found that men who passed though the Base Depot with a 19th London capbadge before going onto the battalion or another unit are shown in the rolls as 19th London. This was discussed a while ago in this old thread. Possibly some of the old sweats were sent back from the battalion to the 47th Infantry Base Depot to handle the new drafts.

Charles

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