The First World War - or The Great War as it was and still is known - is still considered one of the deadliest known conflict in human history in terms of combatant deaths. The total number of military and civilian casualties was over 35 million souls with over 15 million dead and an estimated 20 million wounded. Estimates on the total number of deaths include approximately 10 million military and over 7 million civilians. The Western Allies lost about 6 million soldiers and the Germans and their allies (the Central Powers) lost an estimated 4 million.
It is important to note that disease (including the Spanish Flu) is estimated to have caused about one third of total military deaths for all combatants with the other two thirds being military deaths from battle. World War 1 for the first time saw the take up of truly industrial scale mass killing weaponry by all protagonists, and used with lethal and brutal efficiency at close range with the static trench warfare that was prevalent at the time. This was also based on the military tactics in use at the time of using troops as nothing more than expendable numbers in a war based on winning by mass attrition against the enemy.
Estimated Casualties of Major Combatants:
United Kingdom 886,939 = 2.19% of the population.
Australia 61,966 = 1.38% of the population.
Canada 64,976 = 0.92% of the population.
New Zealand 18,052 = 1.64% of the population
Indian Empire 74,187 = 0.02% of the population.
Newfoundland (included with UK) 2,314 = 0.6 of the population
South Africa 9,477 = 0.16% of the population.
United States 116,708 = .13% of the population
Belgium 58,637 = 1.63% of the population
France 1,397,800 = 4.29% of the population
Italy 651,000 = 3.48% of the population
Russian Empire 1,811,000 = 1.89% of the population
Serbia 275,000 = 16.11% of the population
Austria-Hungary 1,100,000 = 3.05% of the population
Bulgaria 87,000 = 3.41% of the population
German Empire 2,050,897 = 3.82% of the population
Ottoman Empire 771,844 = 13.72% of the population
The last veterans of the First World War may have died but visiting the Ypres Salient, walking the hills of the Somme or standing at the shores of Gallipoli it is impossible not to feel deep respect for the courage, sacrifice, tragedy and sheer guts that took a generation through some of the toughest fighting ever experienced in the history of warfare.
A battlefield tour with Spirit of Remembrance is a pilgrimage that honours - and deeply respects the memory of the combatants of all sides who fought in these grim theatres.
While the First World War may seem remote – it has many features that sound very modern. It was a war in which tanks made their first appearance, chemical weapons were used, bombers carrying 1000 lb bombs hit strategic targets, and fighter aeroplanes strafed forward troops.
The battlefield tours run by Spirit of Remembrance take travellers to the sites and locations where these weapons were used for the first time. The memorials and cemeteries like the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot, Vimy Ridge or Thiepval leave a lasting impression so that a traveller is drawn back to visit them again and again...
It was the sacrifice on the battlefields of the First World War that saw the confirmation of nationhood for Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Visitors to the Somme will see Newfoundland Park where men from this distinctive community on east coast of Canada - proud of their regional identity are honoured and remembered.
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