WW1 casualties

The statistics below are from Adam Hochschild’s To End All Wars: How the First World War Divided Britain. They put the losses in modern wars in some perspective.

On the first day of the Battle of the Somme in World War I the British Army had 21,000 men killed or fatally wounded,  and 36,000 others received non fatal wounds.

50% of French men aged 20-32 in 1914 were killed in WW1.

35% of German men aged 19-22 in 1914 were killed in WW1.

Compare those numbers with a U.S. serviceman’s chance of death in battle, per Nicholas Hobbes’ Essential Militaria (2003):
•    War of Independence: 2 percent (1 in 50)
•    War of 1812: 0.8 percent (1 in 127)
•    Indian Wars: 0.9 percent (1 in 106)
•    Mexican War: 2.2 percent (1 in 45)
•    Civil War: 6.7 percent (1 in 15)
•    Spanish-American War: 0.1 percent (1 in 798)
•    World War I: 1.1 percent (1 in 89)
•    World War II: 1.8 percent (1 in 56)
•    Korean War: 0.6 percent (1 in 171)
•    Vietnam War: 0.5 percent (1 in 185)
•    Persian Gulf War: 0.03 percent (1 in 3,162)


Britain was a very class ridden society in 1914.  Selecting army officers on the basis of class proved to be a bad idea but one cannot accuse the British aristocracy of ‘not doing their bit’.

In WW1 the casualty rate for ordinary  British soldiers was 12%. For those who were peers or the sons of peers it was 19%.  Throughout the war it was always more dangerous to be an officer than a private or NCO.

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