The casualties of the Great War.
Losses in World War One
Until the end of the First World War, the scale of the devastation and loss of human life was incomparable to any previous conflict in human history.
In comparison with earlier wars, the fighting continued, more or less violently, practically continuously. Between August 1914 and November 1918 practically no day passed without any military operations and losses.
At the same time, the fighting was very intense, mainly due to the nature of the trench warfare and the destructive weapons used by the belligerents, which were previously unknown.
The average daily loss in the previous nine major wars was 233 soldiers per day in the French Revolutionary Wars and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars of 1789 to 1815. In the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856, the number rose to 1,075 soldiers per day. In the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865 there were 518 dead soldiers per day, while the number of victims in the Prussian-Danish War of 1864 was only 22.
In the Prussian-Austrian War of 1866, this number shot up again to 1,125, while in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, with 876 soldiers killed per day, it was slightly less.
In the Boer War from 1899 to 1902 there were only 10 casualties per day and in the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-05 this number did not exceed 292, despite the first comprehensive use of modern weapons such as machine guns.
In the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, however, the number rose for the first time to 1,941 casualties per day, and in the First World War of 1914 to 1918, the number of casualties among soldiers skyrocketed to an outrageous 5,509 per day.
It should be noted that all figures on human life losses can only be rough estimates.
Of the 65 million soldiers mobilized by all belligerents, some 8 million were killed and another 21 million wounded.
For the Central Powers, these losses amounted to 1.8 million deaths out of 11 million mobilized in Germany. Austria-Hungary mobilized 7.8 million men and suffered 922,000 killed, Turkey 325,000 out of 2.8 million mobilized soldiers and Bulgaria 76,000 out of 1.2 million mobilized men.
For the Entente or Allies, these figures are 1.36 million deaths for France from 8.4 million mobilized men, 908,000 deaths for the British Empire from 8.9 million mobilized, 1.7 million deaths for Russia from 12 million mobilized, 462,000 deaths for Italy from 5.6 million mobilized, and 50,000 deaths for the United States from 4.3 million mobilized.
In addition, Belgium has 14,000 deaths from 267,000 men, Serbia 45,000 from 707,000 men, Montenegro 3,000 from 50,000 men, Romania 335,000 from 750,000 men, Greece 5,000 from 230,000 men, Portugal 7,000 from 100,000 men and Japan 300 deaths from 800,000 mobilized men.
Just like the military losses, those of the civilian population also amounted to a hitherto unknown extent. A total of about 6.6 million civilians lost their lives, about two-thirds of them, mainly in Russia and Turkey. With the victims of the Allied ‘hunger blockade’ against the Central Powers and the at least 6 million victims of the Spanish flue, other calculations even put the figure at over 13 million.
In the case of Turkey, the majority of the at least 2.1 million civilians killed were victims of ethnic cleansing of Armenians and other Christian minorities. Other sources quote up to 4 million Armenian, Syrian, Jewish and Greek victims by the end of the Turkish Liberation War.
The survivors of the fighting were also marked by the experiences. Many ordinary soldiers continued to suffer from deep psychological trauma, known as ‘Shell Shock’.
Although the soldiers of the First World War had been exposed to the danger of death as in all previous times, unlike their predecessors from earlier wars they were not only under this psychological pressure for a few hours during a series of temporally separated and relatively short battles, but now for 24 hours a day for weeks, if not months.
|Mobilized||Total Casualties||Deaths all causes||Wounded||PoWs or missing|
|British Empire (total)||8,904,467||3,428,535||947,023||2,289,860||191,652|
|Canada||628,964||236,233||59,544||172,950||3,735 (incl 6 missed)|
|Newfoundland||11,922||3,661||1,082||2,314||170 (incl 18 missed)|
|South Africa||136,070||18,913||7,121 or 9,050||11,444||1,538|
|French Empire (total)||8,660,000||6,220,800||1,397,800||4,266,000||557,000|
|French North Africa and Colonial||569,000||75,700|
|Russia||12,000,000||9,300,000||1,600,000 - 1,850,000||4,950,000||2,500,000|
|Serbia||707,343||413,641||127,535||133,148||152,967 (incl 82,535 missed)|
|USA||4,743,826||325,236||116,708||204,002||4,526 (incl 46 missed)|
|Mobilized||Total casualties||Deaths of all causes||Wounded||PoWs or missing|
|Austria-Hungary||8,000,000||4,650,200||1,496,200 (including 480,000 PoWs in captivity)||1,943,000||1,211,000|
|Germany||13,250,000||7,209,413||1,808,555 (including 55,006 PoWs in captivity)||4,248,158||1,152,800|
|Turkey||2,998,321||1,965,000 - 2,415,000||550,000 - 600,000||1,565,000||c.250,000|
Civilians (1914-1918, including famine and diseases):
|Britain||30,633 (including 15,313 merchant sailors and fishermen)|
|France||40,000 (including 3,000 merchant sailors)|
|Russia||over 2,000,000 ( 500,000 Poles and Lithuanians)|
|Germany||812,296 (including 760.000 to Allied blockade)|
|Austria||300,000 (over 2/3rds Polish)|
|Turkey (Massacre of Armenians, Syrians, Jews, Greeks)||up to 4,000,000 until 1923 ( 2,150,000 until 1918, at least half Armenians)|
|At sea and in air raids (total)||at least 100,000|
|Spanish influenza (worldwide)||at least 6,000,000|
Ship Losses 1914-1918
|Coastal defence ships||1||-||-||-||-||-|
|Armed merchant cruisers||17||13||14||-||1||-|
|Armed boarding steamers||13||-||-||-||-||-|
|Coastal motor boats||13||-||17 (MAS boats)||-||-||-|
Central Powers warships:
|Battlecruisers||-||1 (large armored cruiser)||-||-|
|Coastal defence ships||1||-||1 (obsolete)||-|
|Motor Torpedo boats||-||2||-||-|
|Armed merchant raiders||-||11||-||-|
Merchant Shipping Losses:
|France||819,000||500 just to U-boats|
Air War losses 1914-1918
Aircrafts and Personnel:
|Britain||c. 4,000 (+ 15,000 in training)||99 (destroyed)||16,623|
|France||c. 3,000||4||5.333 (killed and missing)|
|Russia||358 (just German claim on Eastern Front)||-||?|
|Italy||267 (Navy only)||7||?|
|Germany||3,128 (incl 460 in service with Turkey)||67 (17 over Britain, 17 elsewhere shot down)||15,906 (incl 389 in Zeppelins)|
|Austria-Hungary||over 423 (plus 231 of Navy in accidents or worn out)||-||?|
Air Raid Losses
|Casualties||Damage (£)||Bombs||Missions over target|
|Zeppelins on Britain only||557 killed + 1,358 wounded||1,527,585||5,751 (196.4 t)||202 (of 277) in 54 attacks, 17 lost|
|Gotha and Giant bombers on Britain only||835 killed + 1,973 wounded||1,418,274||2,471 (73.6-113 t)||330 (of 446) in 27 attacks, 28 lost|
|other aircrafts on Britain only||22 killed + 85 wounded||16,252||301||61 in 37 attacks, 6 lost|
|France (Paris only)||914 (+ 880 to Paris Gun)||?||?||?|
|Germany||2,589||1,200,000 (24,000,000 Reichsmark)||14,208||?|
Financial and Economic Costs 1914-1918:
|Nation||in million £||in million $|
|British Empire (total)||10,395||51,975|
These figures include government spending, loans and material damage valuation. They can only be taken as an approximate relative guide (£1=$5 in 1914).
References and literature
History of World War I (AJP Taylos, S.L. Mayer)
Der Erste Weltkrieg – Storia illustrata della Prima Guerra Mondiale (Hans Kaiser)
Der I. Weltkrieg – Eine Chronik (Ian Westwell)
Chronicle of the First World War, 2 Bände (Randal Gray)