When considering the Great War, the numbers of almost everything involved with it were vast. Here are just some which deal only with Great Britain, and its Empire and Commonwealth.
I am indebted to Major-General J.F.C. Fuller's book, The Army in My Time, and the compilers of the, Statistical Abstract of Information regarding the Armies at Home and Abroad, 1914 - 1920, from which I have gleaned much of my information.
On 1st August, 1914 the British army contained almost one million men (excluding native troops in India) and was made up from the these units:
START OF THE WAR
|Territorial Force Reserve||661||1,421||2,082|
|Militia & Volunteers||194||5,749||5,943|
The total is almost one million men, but the bulk were only partially trained, and many were over-age or unfit.
In 1914 the Expeditionary Force consisted of one Cavalry Division, and six Infantry Divisions
In the British Isles between August and the end of November 1914, 1,250,000 men voluntarily enlisted into the armed services. This represents about one quarter of the manhood between the ages of twenty and thirty-five.
END OF THE WAR
Omitting India, by November 1918 the total recruits to the British Army were:
|COUNTRY||ENLISTMENTS||POPULATION||MALE POPULATION||PERCENTAGE OF MALE POPULATION|
|G. B. TOTAL||4,970,902||46,331,548||22,485,501||-|
* Note: Commonwealth enlistments were as follows:
|COUNTRY||ENLISTMENTS||MALE POPULATION||PERCENTAGE OF MALE POPULATION|
** Note: Newfoundland became a self-governing colony in 1917, and finally united with Canada in 1949.
By December, 1918 the Army had grown to nine mounted Divisions, and eighty-seven Infantry Divisions.
During the War, the expansion in size of all army units was phenomenal, as is shown by this table:
|END of WAR|
|Cavalry & Yeomanry||45,190||74,086|
|Non - Combatants||203||3,209|
|R.A. Pay Dept.||575||14,549|
Reliable casualty numbers are notoriously hard to find, and tend to vary according to the viewpoint of their author. These ones quoted here are taken from J F C Fuller's book, "The Army in my Life", written in 1933.
According to Fuller, the total British casualties reported up to March, 1920 were:
Western Front - 128,205 officers, and 2,632,592 other ranks
and in all theatres - 144, 135 officers, and 2,953,257 other ranks.
Casualties in long-drawn battles were colossal:
|Somme 1||1.7.1916 - 31.11.1916||23,080||474,974|
|Arras||9.4.1917 - 6.6.1917||9,367||178,416|
|Messines||7.6.1917 - 30.7.1917||5,377||103,505|
|Third Ypres||31.7.1917 - 31.12.1917||20,725||380,335|
|Cambrai||20.11.1917 - 31.12.1917||4,296||71,385|
|Somme & Lys||21.3.1918 - 31.5.1918||16,482||327,330|
|Somme, etc||27.5.1918 - 7.8.1918||14,708||82,959|
|Amiens, etc||8.8.1918 - 14.11.1918||17,841||345,376|
On the Western Front there were five casualties to every nine men sent out;
in the Dardanelles the ratio was two to nine;
in Mesopotamia two to twelve; and
in other theatres the average was one to twelve.
Note: as a rough guide, about one third of casualties were men killed.
Chances of becoming a casualty depended to some extent on the fighting arm in which a soldier served:
RATES per HUNDRED
|ARM||KILLED & DIED||WOUNDED||MISSING & PRISONERS||TOTAL|
Withhold the Royal Navy securely guarding the English Channel during the whole conflict, the War could not have been won by the Allies.
As an indication of this vital protection, the following totals of materials and men were carried safely carried to France from August, 1914 to November, 1918.
9,986,504 Other ranks
By 2nd November, 1918, on the Western Front there were, in total, 2,260,054 men and women, and 404,176 animals.
At the War's end the following dead weight (imperial) tonnage of stores shipped to France was:
|Oats & Hay||5,438,602|
|Royal Engineer Stores||3,962,497|
|Mechanical Transport Stores||158,482|
|Royal Air Force Stores||123,570|
|Tanks and Stores||68,167|
The number of shells fired by the British during the War was prodigious.
For example, on 17th November, 1918 the British Army had available on the Western Front:
694,575 mortar bombs
52,358 machine guns
343,037,061 rounds of rifle and pistol ammunition
During the whole War some 170,385,295 shells were fired.
Thus, as the average cost of each round fired was £5, the total expenditure on shells was about £852,000,000 - an astronomically large amount even by today's values.
At the preliminary bombardments of the Arras, Messines, and Third Ypres Battles, the following shell costs were incurred:
|Arras||25.3.1917 - 8.4.1917||2,687,653||£13,162,689|
|Messines||26.5.1917 - 6.6.1917||3,561,530||£17,505,453|
|Ypres||17.7.1917 - 30.7.1917||4,283,550||£22,211,389|
MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS AND COSTS
Even with the absence of most of the drugs which are commonplace today, during the War the Royal Army Medical Corps supplied:
1,088,000,000 drugs in tablet form
34,000,000 doses of various vaccines
Also, the R.A.M.C. from its huge range of stock, issued the following items:
350,000 pairs of glasses
22,386 artificial eyes
7,250 tons of cotton-wool and lint.
In August 1914, hospital accommodation for soldiers in the United Kingdom amounted to about 7,000 beds in some 200 hospitals. By November, 1918 this was increased to 364,133 in 2,426 occupied by 333,074 patients.
CLOTHING, ANCILLARY, and MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS
During the War, amongst a host of other items, these articles of clothing were issued to soldiers:
46,973,000 pairs of boots
31,764,000 jackets, and
28,297,000 pairs of trousers.
Miscellaneous and ancillary items included:
10,638,000 spades and shovels
200,529,000 yards of canvass
52,883,000 yards of flannelette for cleaning rifles
121,702 motor vehicles
4,134 miles of broad-gauge railway line were laid
2,745 miles of narrow-gauge railway line were laid
3,333 locomotives were built for use in France and Belgium.
143,011 railway wagons were supplied
2,250,000 photographs were taken
57,107 rubber stamps were made
16,000,000 books were supplied to camp libraries.
However, it was not all expenditure on the part of the army for:
Over the length of the War 5,649,797 rabbit skins were sold for £123,192
In 1917, waste ration fat was converted into 1,500 tons of crude glycerine, sufficient to provide the propellant charge for 15,000,000 18-pounder cartridges.
Also in 1917, £101,877 was raised from the sale of swill.
By the last few months of the War, the financial cost each day was about £7,500,000. Yearly, the costs were estimated thus:
|YEAR||COST (in £s)|
|1914 - 1915||362,000,000|
|1915 - 1916||1,420,000,000|
|1916 - 1917||2,010,000|
|1917 - 1918||2,450,000,000|
|1918 - 1919||2,500,000,000|
© Karl Murray, 1997
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