This Week in History: 1918 The Province tallies the dreadful casualties of the First World War

Estimates made at the end of the war were often lower than the real numbers.

The First World War ended on Nov. 11, 1918. But it continued to dominate the front page of newspapers for months afterward.

On Dec. 5, 1918 the Province tried to put the loss of life in perspective.

“British Dead, 20 Abreast Would Take Ten Days to Pass Given Point,” said a headline.

“Estimate Based on Column Marching Past in Daylight. France Would Take Longer With Over Million Dead. Methuselah Could Not Have Counted Money Involved.”

The headline topped a story from an anonymous New York Herald writer.

“See the bank teller at his windows,” it stated.

“His cage is stacked high with bales of $10 bills. He is counting 100 bills every minute. He works 10 hours a day, seven days a week. He is trying to count the money spent on the world war. But he will never, never be able to do it — not he, nor his son, nor his son’s son, nor many generations to come.

“To count in $10 bills the money spent on the war would take more than 1,000 years. Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old, might have done it by working nights. No other mortal could.”

“All day long they marched, until after sunlight,” they wrote.

“Let us visualize the march of the British dead. At daybreak they start down Fifth Avenue, 20 abreast. Their fallen comrades follow a few paces behind, in close marching order. Until sundown these men who have ‘gone west’ march down the avenue. The next day there is a similar parade, and the next and the next. For 10 days, the British dead pass in review.

“For 11 days, the French dead file down the avenue of the Allies. Three weeks of marching dead men.

“(It would take) two months and a half for the Allied dead to march past a given point … For the enemy dead to pass in review would require (another) six weeks.

“Throughout all the daylight hours of June, July, August and September, then, the ghastly procession would continue. It is an appalling picture to contemplate.”

As it turned out, the estimates were a bit off — according to a chart in, Britain’s deaths were 908,371, not one million, and France’s were 1,357,800, higher than the 1.1 million originally thought.

German deaths turned out to be 1,773,000, not 2.5 million. Russia’s were 1.7 million, not 3.5 million. But the grand total was still 8,528,831 deaths and 37,267,904 wounded out of 65,038,810 combatants — a 57.5 per cent casualty rate.

This doesn’t include the 13 million civilians who may have been killed during the war. Or the millions who died from the Spanish flu at the end of the war.

John Singer Sargent’s Gassed (1919) depicts a line of British soldiers blinded by poison gas, making their way to medical help by placing a hand on each other. The monumental painting is seven-and-a-half feet tall and 20 feet long.
Chart from showing the armies in the First World War and their casualties. The numbers are a bit different from the estimates at the end of the war.

According to the story, the war cost “the appalling sum” of $221 billion, which it wrote out numerically (“221,000,000,000”), probably because it had a bigger impact.

The story ran with a chart titled “The Blood Shed and Treasure Spent.” It detailed the “men in arms,” “lives lost,” “total casualties” and “cost in dollars” per country or empire.

Canada was included in Great Britain, which sent an estimated 7.5 million men to war, had one million deaths and 3,049,991 casualties. It spent $40 billion in U.S. dollars.

Because the United States entered the war relatively late, it had a much smaller number of deaths (52,169) and casualties (235,117). But according to the chart, it spent $35 billion on the war, more than the $28 billion spent by France.

Chart from the Dec. 5, 1918 Vancouver Province showing the armies in the First World War and their casualties.

France had 1.1 million dead and four million casualties, a staggering 66 per cent of the six million French who fought in the war.

Despite a revolution in 1917, Russia still sent the most soldiers into the fray — 14 million. The chart said 3.5 million were killed out of a total casualty count of five million.

The Germans sent 11 million to war, and suffered 2.5 million dead and 6.9 million wounded. Germany spent an estimated $40 billion on the war.

Germany’s chief ally, Austria-Hungary and its empire, had 7.5 million soldiers in the war, two million deaths and 4.5 million casualties. Its costs were estimated at $25 billion, the same as Russia.

According to the Herald writer, the biggest parade in the U.S. during the war was a “preparedness parade” down Fifth Avenue in New York, which featured about 100,000 solders.

Football news:

Ex-coach Genoa Nicola took charge of Torino
Lampard on 8th place Chelsea: I can handle the pressure
Wegorst-the first in the history of Wolfsburg to score 12 goals in the 1st round of the Bundesliga. He is in the top 3 of the goalscoring race
Bounou is the second goalkeeper of Sevilla after Palop, who blocked 2 + penalties in the La Liga season
Frank Lampard: Back in December, Chelsea were in great shape. I am concerned that we lost it so quickly
Rodgers on Leicester's fight for the championship: It's too early to say, but in the first half of the season we played consistently and at a high level
Only in one season in the Abramovich era did Chelsea score fewer points after 19 rounds than they do now. Then Mourinho was sacked after 16 games