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German Casualty discussion


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#1 Ralph J. Whitehead

Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 01:20 AM

Before you go any further be forewarned, this is a long posting and will be followed by additional materials as each article relating to this subject is reviewed.

In between completing book 2 and other duties (snow shoveler supreme, 113 inches to date) I have had a chance to look over some of the controversies and background of the question regarding casualty comparisons and whether the German numbers can be considered accurate or, was there a conspiracy to deceive the world on how many German soldiers became casualties in the war.

Before getting to the main point of the subject I just wanted to throw in a new twist to this argument, something that we are all aware of and that can never be fully examined for any army that fought during the war. While the German casualty lists provide details on the name, birthplace and type of casualty suffered by the individual soldiers it does not take into account that many men received multiple wounds and survived the war, some had multiple wounds before being killed or captured, etc. The reader of any statistical review that encompasses the entire war must consider this category of men, albeit probably a small percentage, but still something to consider. Some Verlustlisten supplied by the field units even mentioned that a particular man had been wounded for a second or third time or fourth time when the report was made. Just another little factor to consider for discussion in the decades to come.

As I understand it, part of the overall controversy revolves around loss statistics that were used by Churchill in his writings as well as the numbers and reasons behind the numbers supplied by Edmonds in the 1930’s. By no means minimizing the Edmonds involvement in this controversy it appears simply to be an issue that he felt the German losses were under reported and as such required an additional amount to be added, some 30% or more for the (s)lightly wounded. Please do not hold me to exact percentages on this, I am only providing the reader with a quick glimpse as to what I perceive as being an issue in this debate.

From what I can determine Churchill had prepared a memo in 1916 in which he put forth the idea that the British and French were suffering far more losses than the Germans in the fighting. In the post war years he continued his quest to present details in support of his earlier position and he apparently obtained casualty details on the Germans from the British Embassy in Berlin through Lord Curzon, the Foreign Secretary. After receiving the German numbers Churchill apparently wrote to Edmonds and advised him that his earlier position that the Allies had suffered more losses than the Germans in the fighting had been confirmed by the statistics. This information apparently was a catalyst for the section of Churchill’s latest book called ‘The Blood Test’.

As the book was being completed Edmonds apparently wrote to Churchill (14 October 1926) and stated that the German figures were misleading as they did not include the (s)lightly wounded. Edmonds apparently supplied loss statistics for the German VII Corps to prove his point.

Churchill responded by stating that while 40% would need to be added to the wounded numbers, according to Edmonds argument, the number of killed remained the same, which would throw off the statistical ratios that were considered common to all of the countries involved in the war. Considering the ever increasing number of men killed and wounded in the war the statistical ratios would be reasonably predictable using the known loss details and the large numbers involved. Small differences of killed and wounded at different points in the fighting would have little effect on the very large numbers involved. The issue of missing men seemed to cloud the issue even further as did the increase in German losses being reported in the year or so after the end of the war.

While Churchill continued to investigate Edmond’s claim in order to determine if it had merit Edmonds continued to push his ideas in subsequent letters. Edmonds wrote to Churchill saying “It was notorious that the Germans did not include ‘lightly wounded’ …in the casualties”. He continued stating ‘that as this fact is so well known, I have not troubled to collect any statements on the subject.’

I believe that Edmonds lack of any substantive research or documentation of his theory of adding a large number to the reported German losses is therefore baseless and should be considered anecdotal at best. His own admissions indicate the weakness of his theory. I should point out that this is my opinion, not that of any other member or the forum in general.

In researching the question of the casualty dispute I came across a section that if correct could shed some light on how it all began. Per the article; ‘The Treatment of German Losses on the Somme in the British Official History: “Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916” Volume II by M.J. Williams, D.Phil. in the journal Royal United Service Institution for Defence Studies, Page 70: ‘Returning to the development of the Official Historian’s thesis, General Edmonds proceeded to state that the German Official History had at last admitted that lightly wounded in corps hospitals had been excluded from the German returns, as British Intelligence had discovered. The official Historian stated that; “The German official History (Vol. XI, p. 41) states that ‘the great losses of the summer of 1916, since the beginning of the year without the wounded whose recovery was to be expected within a reasonable time amounted to a round figure of 1,400,000 of whom 800,000 were between July and October.’

Per Williams the actual section of the German history are as follows; ‘The great losses of the summer of 1916 had made considerably more difficult the reinforcement supply of the Field Army. They amounted, since the beginning of the year, without the wounded whose recovery was to be expected within a reasonable time….’ etc.

Per Williams the passage was taken from the section of a general discussion of the German reinforcement position in 1916 entitled; ‘Reinforcement Situation and Army Build-up’. I agree with Williams view that the passage in question does not indicate the official loss numbers omitted the (s)lightly wounded, instead it discusses the hurdles facing the German High Command on how to properly supply sufficient reinforcements to the army. The (s)lightly wounded who were likely to rejoin their units in a short time would naturally not be a consideration. The problem was replacing and supplying men to fill the vacancies for the killed, seriously wounded and men whose usefulness had ended as a result of a disabling wound.

Even with the opinion that his numbers were correct Churchill still wanted to be very sure that the numbers he was using were as accurate as they could possibly be. He continued his inquiries into the German numbers to make sure. He received replies from Herr Stinger from the Reichsarchiv that the (s)lightly wounded were included in the reported German numbers and that the sick and wounded who died later were also reallocated to the category of ‘killed’. Stinger apparently had advised Churchill that with the data that was present in the German archives of the reported German casualties that the numbers were as good as any likely to be obtained.

While all of this is fine and good it still does not end the dispute. Some forum members accept German statistical detail as being accurate, others do not. There will be no meeting of the minds if people simply have differing opinions of numbers and their sources.

Perhaps my biggest point is the issue of agendas being involved in how materials are presented. I am on the side that feel the German losses are counted accurately; this is obvious by my position on this subject in several threads. Churchill wanted to support his 1916 views, Edmonds and others may have wanted to soften the blow of the unfavorable ratio of loss statistics. Part of it may have been that if the British won the war (with the Allies) then how could the Germans inflict more losses than they suffered? Surely the winning side would have trounced the losing side?

This last aspect brings up another key factor in the recent discussions on this subject, the idea that loss numbers do not affect the historic results. They do not! The results are what they are. Perhaps it is simply a need to be as accurate as possible in our research and discussion of the events 90+ years ago. Perhaps it is an attempt to disprove old myths and stories that seem to take on a life of their own over time.

From reading through several earlier articles on the loss dispute one glaring point also jumps out. The use of numbers out of context. Some accounts provided German loss numbers that were supposed to represent a particular period of time and for a particular battle. It seems that in the one case I saw the German losses for the fighting at Verdun were given to show how badly the German army had suffered.

In fact, the number provided was for all German losses on the Western Front and not simply Verdun. The numbers were later presented with the idea of taking a small percentage off to represent losses suffered on other parts of the front without any real attempt to determine if they were accurate or not. When the actual numbers were investigated it would seem that the percentages that needed to be allocated to other portions of the front were actually far higher than the ‘estimates’ being used. Once again guess work and assumptions took the place of detailed research.

As I have now received some 5 different articles regard the controversy over loss numbers I will have to read them through and see just what logic is used, what guessing and how the numbers used by both sides were arrived at.

All historians make errors as a result of their interpretation of events, details, etc. It all depends upon the volume of information, the availability of sources, and such. If an error is discovered it does not negate the entire work, just the portion found to need change. If we do not accept that as new information comes up we need to re-evaluate old positions then we will be guilty of ignoring critical information and remaining entrenched in old ideas, to become what was once called a ‘dinosaur’.

#2 Ralph J. Whitehead

Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 01:26 AM

The Mayan civilization was once thought to be peaceful and idyllic before its sudden collapse. In part this may have been the need to have such an ideal after the horrors and losses from the World Wars; in part it was the interpretation by the archaeologists of the time.

Since then it has been shown that there were wars, massacres, horrific battles and destruction of city states on a regular basis. Not the idyllic view we once held. There was an original theory that needed to be changed as new details literally came from the ground.

I belong to No Man’s Land, the Great War Archaeology Group. On certain digs we were working on certain assumptions based upon a common acceptance of thought regarding what we would and would not find. What we often found was quite different than what was the accepted picture. The level of destruction once suspected proved to be true in some cases and completely untrue in others. My biggest take on all of this was to keep an open mind, make decisions based on sound research and if there were areas where details and information was lacking to recognize it and make note of it. Hopefully in the future these gaps could be filled with new finds, new documents found in dusty archives and such.

I am aware that this entry will not change the minds or opinions of some. I am only hoping that as we all look back at the war and the sources still available to us all that we take the time to look at every possible aspect of the information. There is so much more than just reading one account or another and coming to a conclusion. Even in war people have an eye toward the future (especially those in charge who want history to treat them well). Consider all the facts, the possible agendas, hidden reasons that could affect what people wrote or present.

Trust what you read but also verify it. Ask questions, discuss options and see what we can find to prove or disprove them. If you look at books written over the last 90 years you will see quite a few changes being made in the information, the interpretation, especially as new sources and new facts come to life.

I have finished looking over one of the many articles on this subject. The first is ‘The German Losses on the Somme July-December 1916’ by Sir Charles Oman, M.P., Chichele Professor of Modern History at Oxford.

In reference to ‘apples and oranges’ I noticed in looking at statistical ratios that too often the author, Churchill, Edmonds, etc. was guilty of comparing specific losses for the Somme for the British as opposed to the overall western front losses by the Germans. This was also done in a review of Verdun loss numbers. While possibly unintentional the results would not reflect the true loss ratio and was decidedly one sided.

Some basic details from article. Oman states the Somme losses on 1 July for the British: ‘something like 50,000’, clearly an understatement of losses based on current knowledge. Total British Somme losses: ‘approaching 350,000 killed, wounded and missing’.

Oman states Churchill’s figures show: British losses at 481,842 and the Germans at 236,194. Per Oman the German figures are ‘much less than half of the total German losses upon the Somme between July and November.’

Oman objected to the comparison of the 8th Division losses, 5,500, to IR 180, less than 300. Oman felt the 8th Division should be compared to German unit that lost higher numbers on 1 July and not one that was ‘fortunate’.

Oman goes on to state RIR 111, a regiment near to IR 180 lost 1,850 men out of 2,700 so that the comparison between the 8th Division and RIR 111 was far less gloomy.

Oman fails to point out he is talking of comparing Division losses to regimental losses and that in the case of the 8th Division they faced IR 180 and therefore the original comparison is valid. Oman also omits to include the numbers of men lost facing RIR 111 by Fricourt.

Oman states that IR 180 had exceptional luck. On the contrary, other regiments also had low numbers of losses on different portions of the battlefield, others had higher. IR 180 was not an exception as claimed.

Oman does list German divisions and reported losses, allegedly for the Somme. More research is needed by me on these units to determine if the time periods being utilized for the loss numbers and how these numbers were determined are correct.

Continuing further there were certain assumptions made by Oman about the Verlustlisten: The time delays between the date of loss and time it appeared in print and the fact that the location of the loss was not included were apparently done to deceive the Allies on German losses and locations. ‘It was obviously the purpose of the editors of these lists [Verlustlisten] to mix up losses on all possible fronts, in order that their readers in the calculating bureaus of Paris or London might be given as much trouble as possible in collecting useful statistics’.

Oman continues his theory by citing how regiments, divisions, etc. had losses that appeared on different days and lists and this was an intentional act designed to deceive the enemy calculators.

Oman seems to forget that even with the lack of knowledge in some cases of where a unit was positioned when the losses occurred there was still a valuable list of information on the numbers of men lost, their categories as a casualty, etc. Also, in many instances a unit location was known for a specific date of action. This information could be obtained through reports on enemy dead, prisoners, raids and patrols that brought in details of opposing units.

Anyone reading through these lists would recognize that trying to differentiate between east and west, Italy and Romania, etc. would have been a logistical nightmare. It was far easier to place the units by category [Guard Regiments, Active Regiments, Reserve Regiments, Landwehr Regiments, Cavalry, Artillery, etc. and then by ascending numerical order] when the lists were being prepared if not as a means of deception then as a means of making it possible to print the lists 6 days a week. On top of it all the publisher of the Verlustlisten and other German statistical groups did not have the day to day details of where each and every unit was located and when it moved, etc. so it would have been impossible for the publishers to break down losses by the portion of the front they were involved in.

Lastly, the purpose of the lists was to inform the public of the possible loss of a family member or friend, not to deceive the enemy. If this was the case then why publish the lists at all? Just notify the families through official channels and prevent any information from reaching the allies.

Oman tries to imply that the lists published the worst of the losses last of all units within a division. His article appears to indicate that the ‘calculators’ reading these lists were making certain assumptions that if the first two regiments of a division suffered ‘x’ losses then the remaining regiment must have had higher losses. Of course, Oman was one of these calculators.

I have found this point not to be true after reading through hundreds of lists from 1914 through the end of 1916. Often the initial lists contained the heaviest reported losses. If the ‘calculators’ were making the assumptions implied by Oman then their calculations would be in error and they would come up with numbers far higher than the evidence would support.

Oman goes on to point out that the Germans used extemporized divisions where units taken from several sources were then combined and deployed on the Somme. Some assumptions were made that the rest of the units to these divisions also were deployed when in fact they were not or arrived much later.

Per Oman ‘Liebert’s group of thirteen miscellaneous battalions opposite the French was a specially tiresome problem. However, such difficulties were always solved in the end.

This last section contains clues to what might have been one of the reasons for Oman’s assumptions and points of view regarding the casualty controversy. First, Oman does not explain how theses difficulties were overcome. Did the calculators obtain additional details? Did they simply make guesses and estimates? It is something to consider. Second, Oman mentions early on in the article that he has a special interest in the subject of the casualty dispute. He states ‘My own interest in the book [Churchill’s] comes from its containing two chapters – mainly strategical in character – on which one who was immersed in statistics from morn to eve, during two years of the Great War, feels bound to make his comment, lest certain figures should pass undisputed, and deductions from them should grow into generally accepted truisms.’

From this last statement Oman confirms he was one of the ‘calculators’ who reviewed and researched German losses. Could the very idea of a different opinion than the official one put out during the war strike a nerve in one of the men whose career involved making the assessment of German losses in the war? If Churchill’s book was accepted as being more accurate than what of the hard work performed by Oman and men like him? Could their work be considered faulty and therefore diminish their role in the war effort? Just assumptions mind you, but ones to keep in mind as to motives being used by the historic players in this controversy. The same as the reason Churchill might have omitted any direct criticism of Rawlinson for the planning and opening phase of the Somme. It appears Rawlinson and Churchill worked together in the post war years and became friends with similar interests.

Oman continues his assessment of the loss dispute by stating that the Verlustlisten were being printed with ‘longer and longer intervals between the day on which a casualty occurred and the day on which it was acknowledged in print. By November as much as four or five weeks intervened. The acknowledged totals [supposedly for Somme units] had got up to about 420,000 for the infantry alone by the end of the November Verlustliste(n).’

This is correct in some cases, incorrect for others. By the first days of December the article mentions that the Berlin Office publishing the lists suddenly shut down and published no more regimental lists. His conclusion: ‘The reason was obvious – the total was getting too ghastly, and the information afforded to Paris or London calculator was too valuable.’ Oman claims the majority of the November losses had not reached print when the next change in the Verlustlisten occurred, when the units were omitted and the names were only listed alphabetically.

The latter could have been part of the change as the information was valuable to some degree or another but after studying the lists, the historic background of the changes and such I feel there is a different and much simpler explanation. By the end of 1916 the numbers of men shown on each list was growing larger and larger. It took a great deal of effort to typeset the details for each day and more often than not some entries appeared over several days as the number of pages grew too large.

Also, the delay in publishing that occurred in early December 1916 did not involve a complete shutdown of the lists. Some information did appear at this time and then, when the full lists appeared once more they were in alphabetical order without the regiment or unit being shown. However, they now contained a date of birth for each man, something obtained from the 10 day casualty reports, 5 day hospital reports, etc. The men not shown in the short period where the lists were being changed were added to the new lists and therefore were not omitted as alleged.

From what I can tell from the available records the change from listing men by unit to simply listing them alphabetically required a great deal of change and effort by the men and women who prepared the lists for printing. Time was needed to alter the methods and to physically list the men in alphabetical order. While they were good at their job there are times when a name appears out of order due to the sheer size of the lists. Then, add in the date of birth the time required to set up for this new system was considerable.

While individual unit details were omitted the bean counters in London or Paris still had the raw data of the losses suffered by the Germans and even without the knowledge of the exact date of each loss they still could project the drain on German manpower, how many replacements were needed, etc. With the date of birth they also had more details on the particular annual class the men belonged to and could project losses for each class as statistics increased with each Verlustlisten.

Now, if you used the assumptions made by Oman that the early lists showed smaller unit losses and later lists showed the larger number of losses suffered by any regiment or division then his group would have ‘assumed’ that the lists still yet to be printed actually contained far higher numbers than the ones already identified and reviewed. This alone would tend to inflate the ‘official’ numbers put out by the statisticians.

First; the time frame increased in some cases due to the higher numbers of losses suffered on all fronts during the summer and fall months. This was the time when military actions were at their highest [Somme fighting, Verdun, eastern front, etc.] and therefore would produce more losses. Second; the losses suffered at the end of the battle of the Somme had been declining and the actions being fought in November were not producing the loss numbers experienced in August and September. To assume the same loss numbers in the final days of the fighting as in the months of the heaviest combat periods is not supported by the actual numbers.

Oman did estimate German losses that had not been printed before the Verlustlisten changes for the Somme at 60,000. He did acknowledge that this number was lower than those reported in August, September and October. However, it was simply a guess and without foundation to support it. He also places losses for smaller units whose association could not be determined [artillery, engineers, train, technical troops, etc.] as 50,000 men. Again, he has no real basis for his number, just one he apparently picked as he stated it was a ‘moderate estimate, for many engineer companies and artillery batteries were annihilated.’ While some of these units did suffer heavy losses I have yet to find one that was annihilated as suggested by Oman after reviewing the lists through the end of 1916..

In many cases losses for the support units for 1 July were remarkably low despite being under bombardment for a week and then fighting throughout 1 July. This would be the time when you might expect the highest number of losses to be experienced by these units.

Given the last two estimates by Oman (60,000 unpublished from November and 50,000 for smaller units) the German losses overall have been increased by 110,000 men without any actual basis for this number other than a ‘moderate estimate’. I can say from actual review of these smaller units that the loss reports were generally much lower than the infantry and that should be expected.

Even at that time the ‘calculators’ knew what artillery regiments were attached to each division so these numbers should not be a guess. Also, when looking at actual losses by heavier batteries, pioneers, etc. the loss reports are quite low and sometimes contained the names of 1-5 men in each list.

The two Musketen Battalions positioned on the Somme that were engaged in the early fighting would seem to have lived charmed lives. I searched through 5 months of Verlustlisten as I would have expected there to be some losses from the fighting. I found a few references 4 or more months after July where 1-2 names were shown and the loss details indicted they were updates on far earlier lists. From what I can tell these battalions suffered no losses from the Somme.

Oman goes on to indicate that the Reichsarchiv number for losses on the Somme from July through November were 436,651. Of these 164,055 were killed or missing, 272,596 were wounded. As 83,655 prisoners were taken the remaining 80,400 was the number of men killed.

The ratio of these numbers is 3.4 wounded to every 1 man killed. Oman claims this is far too low a proportion as the British ratio was 4.5 men wounded to every 1 man killed and the French numbers, when lightly wounded are added, were the same while the U.S. figures show a ratio of 5 to 1. Oman felt that it was absurd to think the Allied weapons were deadlier than the German weapons and caused such a different ratio. His conclusion was that the only way out of the problem was to assume that the British loss numbers included every casualty no matter how slight while the German numbers did not included the (s)lightly wounded.

Given the law of large numbers it is not unreasonable to expect that certain ratios from each army should be fairly close. However, the difference found in the numbers shown above do not warrant a leap of faith to the assumption of the Germans excluding a large portion of their losses.

I need to know more. Were the ratios used to compare to the Germans for the Somme alone? Obviously not as U.S. numbers were thrown in. Was it an indication that German Somme numbers were compared to overall Allied ratios? Possibly. I hope to know more soon.

If, what I suspect is correct, and the ratios are not from the same number sets than these ratios will have to be reviewed accordingly. For any large set of numbers there will be anomalies. The Germans on the Somme were subjected to ever increasing Allied firepower, numerous artillery pieces, mortars, machine guns, etc. This could be one reason for the German ratio of dead to wounded. I am sure there are other aspects of this that need to be reviewed and I will do what I can to locate more details on the numbers and ratios.

Oman goes on the state that using similar loss ratios as the Allies the German wounded should be 360,000, then add 80,000 dead and 83,000 prisoners (his rounding up or down of earlier figures) and suddenly the reader gets the approximately 530,000 German losses that Oman had earlier indicated was the actual German losses on the Somme. Again, the revised numbers are based upon supposition, not fact.

Oman also concludes that taking 420,000 from the Verlustlisten, add 60,000 from November and 50,000 smaller unit losses and you reach 530,000. He does indicate that the 110,000 losses are ‘hypothetical’ and not based upon any research or physical numbers.

From his numbers he then also concludes that Allied losses were ‘decidedly less’ with the British being 342,662 (British Official Totals). Oman gives the French losses at 146,672 making the total Allied losses at 489,334 and the Germans at 530,000, or 500,000 as was also mentioned.

Oman indicates Churchill was in error on reporting British loss numbers. Churchill apparently took the overall western front British losses of 463,000 for the Somme period and deducted 53,000 for losses that occurred elsewhere in this period. Oman states the losses along the other parts of the front were actually over 100,000 men. Oman claims Churchill underestimated the wastage of men on the front other than the Somme but does not support his estimates with anything more than a simple disagreement with Churchill.

Oman states that Churchill had made certain comments during the war on loss comparisons, numbers of enemy divisions engaged, etc. and Oman gives his own figures for the numbers of German divisions that fought on the Somme, some several times. Oman concludes that German losses on the Somme were far worse than those suffered at Verdun and the effect on the overall German army was devastating. One writer he quotes mentions the well known statement that the Old Army disappeared in the long-drawn battle. He is correct in that the losses in trained soldiers was devastating, as were those from Verdun and other fronts.

From Oman’s final comments in his article I believe that he felt Churchill’s position on the Somme and the ratio of losses indicated to the public that the Battle of the Somme was ‘an error or a fruitless expenditure of blood’. Oman felt that if the attack had not been made then the French could not have held out much longer at Verdun. As the Somme saved the French, lowered German morale, struck terror to the enemy; enabled the French to retake all lost ground. At Verdun, etc. It cost the Germans 500,000 of their best troops, etc. Oman states ‘I cannot agree with those who look upon the Somme battles as a tale of unrelieved gloom and wasted effort.’

Perhaps this last statement is the true reason for Oman’s position and article. It was not only to validate his efforts during the war and his professional reputation it was also to refute the idea of so many men dying for a worthless reason. It is not hard to understand and sympathize with both reasons if they are correct. This is my opinion after looking at the different articles and theories.

I should mention that Oman was employed by the government Press Bureau and Foreign Office during the war and his duties were to evaluate German casualty losses. Perhaps this article was an attempt to present a rosier picture to the public of the comparison of losses. At the very least his article seems to be an attempt to refute claims made by Churchill that the British suffered more losses, the battle was a disaster and wasteful, etc. Churchill’s overall opinions could very well be seen as an attack on Oman’s work during the war and an attempt to diminish the accomplishments of the Somme fighting by the average British soldier, something Oman obviously strongly objected to as I would also. The successes and failures of the fighting cannot be laid at the feet of the infantryman, it should be directed against those who planned and controlled the tempo of fighting from day to day. That would be the subject of an entirely different thread.

After the article appeared a series of charts showing the different German divisions that fought on the Somme, the approximate time they were there, the losses suffered by each, etc. These were apparently taken from the Verlustlisten reports on casualties.

I have looked at a number of the units listed and found some major assumptions and errors. I will need to do further research into all of the divisions and times on the Somme but if errors appeared in some of the numbers it leads to questions on all of them until proven one way or the other.

He has the XIV Reserve Corps divisions [26th and 28th Reserve Divisions] as being in the fighting from July 1-13 and then the middle of October. The 28th Reserve Division left the Somme on or about 3 July and did return in October. The regiments fought in the Champagne region and at Verdun during the break and suffered losses. The 26th Reserve Division remained on the Somme for months following 1 July and was also involved in the October/November fighting as well as earlier in September.

He does not indicate any accounting for divisions that lost certain regiments such as the removal of RIR 99 from the 26th Reserve Division and that these losses could be associated on other parts of the front. It is also impossible to indicate which men were casualties of the Somme as the lists do not contain locations or dates of each casualty.

I have added the lists from the Verlustlisten that most closely correspond to the fighting on 1 July to my second volume on the XIV Reserve Corps. Whenever possible I identify the known losses for 1 July. In this I have the advantage of additional sources that provide such detail. Most of the entries do not have a date next to the name as without the Stammrolle books it is not possible to identify the exact dates of each loss, in particular the non-fatal losses. It is a sad commentary that it is far easier to research a man who was killed in the war than one who survived.

Back to the lists. Of course, given the account of the fighting and reported losses by many of the regiments the reader can assume certain losses were also on 1 July as well as taking a statistical look at each list containing known dates. For example, if 89% of the men killed for one unit on one such list are shown as 1 July and 11% for two or three days before and after then it would not be unreasonable, for estimating losses for 1 July, that 89% of the men whose dates of injury on the list are unknown would also correspond to the same ratios, ie. 89% or so of the wounded and missing should reasonably be associated with 1 July as well.

While not perfect, it does help give an idea of the total losses suffered on 1 July. The point is to accept that these are imperfect but the best that can be done at present by one person.

Given enough time, resource and patience some groups whose Stammrolle exist today could be identified down to the exact date. Those whose records are gone would be virtually impossible to identify dates with the current level of detail available. If the 10 day loss returns suddenly show up in some obscure archive or warehouse perhaps this will all change.

To give the reader an idea of the detail level found in some Stammrolle books I have included a sample for the 5th Coy 8th Bavarian RIR from the Verlustlisten that appeared after the fighting on 1 July 1916. The original list gave name, birthplace and type of casualty. The list below shows the date and comments found on most men so far from the existing company Stammrolle book. If there is no date or minimal details on any entry it simply means I have not located that entry yet. These charts are notorious at collapsing into a single line entry when added to the forum. The first part indicates the known date of the casualty, the second gives some particulars associated with that person and date.

11-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
6-Jul-1916 KIA
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded
16-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
7-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded, artillery splinter in head, died 4 July 1916
2-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
16-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded, artillery splinter head
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell
Slightly wounded
5-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell
8-Jul-1916 KIA
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded left arm by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded artillery splinter in chest
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded, died 2 July 1916
Severely wounded
5-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
7-Jul-1916 KIA
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
16-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded artillery splinter left leg
4-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded artillery splinter left leg
1-Jul-1916 KIA 1.30 p.m. by artillery shell
8-Jul-1916 KIA
8-Jul-1916 KIA 8.30 a.m. by artillery shell
4-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded artillery shell, head
1-Jul-1916 KIA 6 p.m.
4-Jul-1916 Severely wounded
7-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded artillery shell leg
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell in back
Slightly wounded
4-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
4-Jul-1916 KIA 5.30 by artillery shell
Severely wounded
5-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by rifle bullet right leg
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded
7-Jul-1916 KIA 6.45 a.m. by artillery shell
3-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded rifle bullet left arm
2-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
2-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell left foot
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 KIA 2 p.m. by artillery shell
2-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
8-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell, died 13 July 1916
5-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 KIA 1.30 p.m. by artillery shell
Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
Slightly wounded
18-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by rifle bullet
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell, died 12 December 1916
7-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by rifle bullet in leg
23-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in leg by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 KIA at 1.30 by artillery shell
18-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded artillery shell head
2-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell left leg
22-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
Slightly wounded
6-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
3-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in arm by artillery shell
7-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded left arm by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in head by artillery shell
6-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded left arm by artillery shell
3-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
7-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Severely wounded in leg by artillery shell
4-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell leg, chest, died 12.30 p.m. 5 July
1-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell
5-Jul-1916 Severely wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
15-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded left arm by artillery shell
4-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded left hand by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell at 1.30 p.m.
Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell 11.30 a.m.
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in head by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in back by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 KIA by artillery shell at 4 p.m.
23-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded by artillery shell
23-Jul-1916 Severely wounded in back by artillery shell
7-Jul-1916 KIA
2-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in arm by artillery shell
16-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded left foot by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 KIA 1.30 p.m. by artillery shell
1-Jul-1916 Slightly wounded in head by artillery shell
Slightly wounded
1-Jul-1916 KIA
Slightly wounded
Slightly wounded
Slightly wounded
Slightly wounded
Slightly wounded
Slightly wounded


As you can see, some have very detailed information down to time of day. Also, while appearing on one Verlustlisten the dates covered show a period of more than 3 weeks of losses in the report. Given this level of information found in a portion of a larger list it supports the opinion that by counting losses from the Verlustlisten there will be an overlap on German units transferred to the Somme after 1 July. If the lists could contain 3 or more weeks of losses then the Somme losses could be only a few days of a particular list while the rest occurred elsewhere. Also, if a unit left the Somme the same applies. Some losses could be Somme related while others from actions after moving on to a different sector.

This is not a simple issue that will be decided any time soon. I believe it is important to look at every possible aspect of the problem and to take a hard look at the people who have argued one side or another and see what information they are using, are the comparisons the same, did they have a possible agenda, etc. Once we have a better understanding of the events, the people and the numbers we will have a better grasp of the entire issue.

Ralph

#3 PJA

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 11:33 AM

Ralph,

You make Herculean efforts in this field.

On my shelves I have some old correspondence from a British commentator residing in Germany at the time - Lord knows how and why his presence there was tolerated - and since it was written at the time of the event, it has a striking relevance to this thread.
The basis of his letter was that he was able to see the published German casualty statistics as they were displayed to the public, and they were very clearly sufficiently comprehensive to include the slightly wounded. He actually demolished the claims that were made by Edmonds later : an interesting suggestion that claims about surpression of German casualty statistcs were being made at the time, and he obviously felt compelled to refute them. My challenge - and this will be a Herculean effort for me, too - is to find that correspondence, which I have not seen for more than twelve years. I remember reading it and thinking what a superb repudiation this would make to the Edmonds school of the casualty controversy.

In the meantime, I reiterate my contention that the way Edmonds dealt with the German casualties on the Somme was nothing short of a disgrace, Moreover, there was ineptitude in his calculation. The German historian Wendt endeavoured to compile a month by month compilation of German casualties on the Somme, attributing 45,000 to the month of November. His figures were extracted from the Reichsarchiv returns you mention above. These had tabulated 537,000 casualties for the period July to October for the entire Western Front. In his comments, Edmonds stated that the Germans admitted to 582,000 for the Somme battle - a ludicrous error : he simply takes the figure for the entire front for July to October, and adds on Wendt's November figure for the Somme, and conjures up an "admitted" total of 582,000 for the Somme alone.

Oman seems to have made it his mission to support Edmonds's contention.

Apart from the Reichsarchiv, we have the meticulous tabulations from the sanitatsbericht, the German Medical History. Edmonds refused to cite these figures for the Somme or for Third Ypres, because they were so inimical to his case. Those of you who cherish the view that German casualties were understated by exclusion of the lightly wounded....look away now, because you will not like what you see :

Somme, June 21st to November 20th 1916, against both British and French : Killed; 57,987, Wounded; 273,132, Missing 85,683. A total of 416,802 casualties, with reference to an additional 3,000 or so who were gassed. Note that the proportion of confirmed killed to wounded here is 1 to 4.7. The French proportion was 1 to 3.5, the British about 1 to 4.4.

Incidentally, the same source gives German casualties at Verdun from February 21st to September 10th 1916 : 41, 632 killed, 241,860 wounded and 26,739 missing, for a total of 310,231 casualties, with the wounded outnumbering the confirmed killed by 5.8 to 1. The French ratio was 3.5 to 1.

So much for German casualty figures excluding the lightly wounded.

More to come : my priority is to find that letter!

Phil (PJA)

#4 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 08:38 PM

I have now had time to look over the most recent article ‘The Blood Test Revisited: A New Look at German Casualty counts in World War I’ by McRandle and Quirk.

The authors start off fairly early on stating there is nothing more frustrating for the historian than trying to reach some firm ground on the subject of [World War I] casualties, a quote they credit to John Terraine. I agree with them, it is not an easy subject. Add in all the theories and misinformation over decades and it gets even worse.

They point out the argument against attrition put forth by Churchill during the war that most likely formed much of the basis for the dispute over the decades, the Haig vs anti-Haig camps. It points to the issue of personal and political agendas used by the parties at the time. The authors indicate that ‘The World Crisis’ was a devastating attack on Haig and his policies.

Much of the current misunderstanding of the numbers and sources being used comes directly from this disagreement over military policy.
The authors indicate part of the problems with the numbers used by both sides was the question of where some 496,000 German losses fit into the war. These apparently came up in the years following the war when the Germans tried to make sense of the last months of the fighting and the losses suffered. As such their work continued into the 1920’s. Based upon first hand use of the Verlustlisten (I own a complete set from 1914 through 1919) the records being kept before July 1918 were quite accurate and up to date. Following this period, during heavy fighting, numerous prisoners being lost, etc. the reporting was spotty and incomplete. There are numerous reasons for this as anyone who studied the final months could see. The overall German army was collapsing and good record keeping was not up there in importance with staying alive or finding food and water.

The two authors indicate Churchill used numbers that did not include the slightly wounded. I saw no basis for this assumption as these men were included in the German statistics made during the war and reported in the Verlustlisten. This statement indicates possible validity to the Edmonds theory and I have found that to be wholly unsupported, mainly through Edmonds own confession of his failure to attempt any research into the issue.
The ‘new’ set of data being introduced by the authors is simply the use of the Sanitätsbericht that was published in 1934. At this point I want to make clear my view on this book in relation to some theories that it was Nazi propaganda. It was published shortly after Hitler took power as Chancellor and as such I doubt it was high on the agenda for his political aims when he was trying to obtain a power base just to stay alive politically. Most of the work, probably 90% or more was completed under the Weimar Republic by men who had served in some capacity in the war, in the military or in the government under the Kaiser. There is no credible evidence to indicate any conspiracy and none has been put forth as far as I can tell.

McRandle and Quirk make some assumptions and conclusions that I simply disagree with (there are some I agree with as well). They claim the source of the Sanitäts data is not known with certainty. It is, it comes from the very reports required to be submitted by the field units, units serving at home, hospital reports, etc. These all existed when the commission was compiling the information they needed to complete their work.

They discuss their idea that Churchill’s data came from the point of view of the ‘demanders’ for health treatment while the Sanitäts numbers come from the point of view of the ‘suppliers’ of health treatment. I disagree in how they view these sources. The ‘demanders’ were the basis for the reports from the ‘suppliers’ and as status changed for men in hospital the ‘supplier’ reports changed accordingly.

Now perhaps I am missing something but the next portion simply makes no sense to me: ‘Moreover the fact that the Sanitäts data explicitly includes the lightly wounded (unfortunately explicitly identified as such only in data where they are combined with sick patients with similar short-term treatment charactersitics) means that there is concrete evidence to support Edmond’s contention of the existence of a second set of statistics of German casualties that include the lightly wounded, a refutation of William’s claim noted earlier.’

Just how does this support Edmonds? I read and re-read this section and the earlier materials and it escapes me entirely. There is no secret set of data or reports that has never been seen since the war. If it was so then it is the best kept secret in history. The German archives were wide open to the Allied forces for years following the war and numerous commissions studied it, copied it and took materials they felt were relevant to their country. This ‘missing’ set of reports is a myth. If not, would someone please show a single example to me?

The Verlustlisten printed the returns as they came in from the field. The Sanitäts took this data and all subsequent reports and created the volume published in 1934. Two different systems operating on two separate methods at two different times. No wonder no one has been able to match them together. They were not designed to be matched and they most likely never will be unless we had all of the data available to the commission for our own review.

I have a serious question after reading through this article and others. I really wonder if any of the authors actually studied the reports, the Verlustlisten, etc. in detail or were they simply taking numbers from a variety of sources and creating assumptions and baseless ‘facts’ that subsequent authors simply used.

In this article the authors accepted the U.S. estimates as a starting point. Why? What makes them better than the British or French or German numbers? If you do not start out with a solid foundation you will not be able to build any sort of structure that will stand, this goes for theories as well.

McRandle and Quirk state that as not every battle started on the first day of a month or ended on the last then using monthly data is not the most reliable in trying to identify losses to a particular action. They felt it would lead to minor discrepancies in the numbers when comparing monthly returns. Actually it could be far higher if you do not have the full details for each unit, each casualty, etc. You are still playing the guessing game otherwise.

Just using statistics and comparisons to prove one side was more effective than the other in inflicting losses and trying to compare sets of numbers taken at different times under different methods is not a sound method in my opinion. Anyone who studied the war can see how the weapons and tactics used favored the defenders. Defenders under cover, fixed coordinates, etc. while attackers were often exposed for some or most of the time during the attack.

The effect of modern weapons can be seen at Cold Harbor, Virginia in 1864 when the Union attacked the Confederate earth works and were slaughtered by muzzle loading cannon and rifled muskets. Not quite the same intensity of a modern rifle or machine gun but apparently just as effective in allowing the well-entrenched soldiers to inflict far greater losses on their exposed enemy.

The authors continue to attempt to show how the different sets of data sometimes match, sometimes do not when comparing say Churchill to the Sanitäts. Again, the assumption is that Churchill used the proper numbers and ratios. Second, these numbers were never designed to match and they serve two purposes. At one point the article tries to match up the U.S., Churchill and Sanitäts numbers. Once again, not feasible, not designed to match and the assumptions made indicate that at least two, in my opinion, are correct when compared to the actual loss data that was housed in the German archives.

The article indicates that the Sanitäts numbers do not reflect subsequent updates of status for soldiers after the initial report. In fact it does. The reports filed in later periods from the field and hospitals, etc. were all reviewed and as the status changed in a report so did the statistical detail of that period of time, let’s say month by month. To consider otherwise would mean that not only did the Sanitäts look at the reports they somehow removed the names and numbers of men already reported previously. I doubt it would be possible even if we had all the data today. They simply took each report and compiled them into categories that they could then review and study. The same men would appear in later reports depending upon how long they treated or if they returned to duty, etc.

While the article includes a number of charts trying to match the different sources together I doubt these are helpful if the original data is not looked at. They do conclude that the ‘new’ data, the Sanitäts does make some alterations to the overall effectiveness of the Germans vs the Allies in causing losses it does not eliminate this point of view. It is a more refined look at the raw data than numbers simply collected during the war.
As the ‘new’ data is simply the Sanitäts then it is not really new as it has existed for 77 years, scarce or not. I see an overall problem with most casualty discussions that simply accept numbers and charts from different sources and then create new numbers and charts to support one thought or another. In order to make certain assumptions and statements regarding losses then the authors need to actually read the primary sources, look at the Verlustlisten and then create their own numbers and ratios in line with the procedures and guidelines used by the country they want to compare to. If two countries collect different data, different time periods, different categories and neither match up then there can be no reasonable comparison made.

The researcher should have the original Nachweissamt numbers from the war, access to the Verlustlisten copies and the Sanitätsbericht before heading off to present an article. The book must be completely read for a full understanding of what information was used and how it was used. The Verlustlisten needs to be studied so the author has a clear understanding of how it is formed, the changes made and the level of detail provided. Finally, the most impossible, study the actual German reports that formed the basis for the Sanitäts. This is impossible at present as so much of it was lost. Still, the commission did create their sets of data and headings from these very reports so absence the originals it is the best we have at present.

Two articles to go it seems and then all five will have been looked at. Thank you for your patience in reading through such large postings.

Ralph

#5 PJA

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 11:13 PM

Churchill's synopsis of comparative Allied and German casualties forms the basis of his chapter the Blood Test in his history. At the back of the final volume there are, in the Appendix, some more tabulations, which provide us with figures of German casualties from the Nachsweissant and the Reichsarchiv. Churchill ventures an estimate for total German casualties on the Western Front at 5,383,000, of whom 1,494,000 were fatal. This, set against the overall total of two million German dead for all fronts, and a total casualty list of seven million, seems a reasonable guess : it certainly does not bear the hallmarks of understatement. My only criticism of his method is that he uses French figures which include those evacuated sick, thereby inflating their casualties by more than 800,000, about one sixth of the French total. This distorts the arithmetic of the casualty exchange which he applies so remorselessly.

I agree with you, Ralph, that there is something rather superficial in the approach of McRandle and Quirk.

Edmonds himself made two startling claims : that the German regimental rolls of honour indicated a total death toll that was nearly twice as great as the two million officially announced; and that, in evenly balanced positional warfare, the defender tended to suffer more casualties than the attacker.

Cyril Falls, who endorsed most of Edmonds's findings, felt that he had gone too far in his reckoning of German deaths, but suggested that three million was probably short of the mark.

If that figure is correct, than we would have to concede that Edmonds was right and Churchill was wrong, and that the Germans may well have lost 650,000 men killed, wounded and missing on the Somme, instead of the 420-437 thousand that the Sanitatsbericht /Reichsarchiv record.

Metropolitan France lost 1.325 million military dead in the Great War, a figure representing about one in thirty of her pre war population. In proportionate terms, the German official total of two million equates roughly with that of the French : are we to believe that German per capita losses exceeded those of France ? Maybe they did, but I would doubt it.

Phil (PJA)

#6 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 02:24 PM

In the case of Churchill, Edmonds, whoever. I would tend to throw away all of their numbers and charts until the original sources are identified, the original numbers are posted and the basis, criteria, etc. for these numbers can be shown. Once this is done for the various countries and their statistics then it might be possible to see what sort of comparisons can be made, if any.

Edmonds claim that the regimental roll of honor indicates twice the German fatal losses is complete nonsense. I have no idea where he even came up with this theory. Many of these books were printed after his statements. Others, such as the Württemberg series did not have an Ehrentafel in them, some were privately printed. If he put as much effort into proving this little theory as he did in adding 30% to the reported German losses or claiming defenders lost more than attackers, which apparently was none according to his own admission then he might have some basis for his position on this subject. Anectdotal or wishful thinking is not enough to go on. If I did that at work I would be up to my eyeballs in libel and slander suits, bad faith, etc.

In comparing the period Verlustlisten with the post-war regimentals I can say that the numbers and identities of the men shown as having died in the war match almost 100%. I have found Verlustlisten where a man was shown as KIA and later it was discovered the name was wrong, the details were wrong and the subsequent lists were corrected. Of these I have found very few after looking at hundreds of lists. Other sources of verification include the company Stammrolle that exist, the local village memorials listing the dead of the region, obituaries in newspapers, roll of honor sections in illustrated newspapers, etc. If you get lucky you can match up 2 or more of these sources and obtain a great deal of personal information on an individual soldier.

Ralph

#7 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 02:40 PM

Here is an example of the Stammrolle for the 8th Bavarian RIR, 3 men to a page. Full personal details, military career, any particular events. The ones with a red cross indicate they died in service and these particulars, when known, were added. Any time of service, promotions, postings, medals, etc. were all recorded for evey man who served in the war from every state. These records relating to Prussian regiments when lost in the Second War meant a great deal of information that modern historians, geneologists, etc. could have utilized is now gone.

The details listed on the attached image came directly from the very reports filed by the field units, the hospitals, etc.

Ralph

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#8 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 03:38 PM

I am adding two additional scans. First, a full first page of a Somme period Verlustlisten. THis means that the listings on this page would include losses suffered on 1 July or later, and could possibly include men lost during the bombardment. It is more for a reference point to the members who have heard of these but never saw one. The first listed regiments are Guard, etc. The next are active infantry regiments, reserve regiments, etc.

The second posting will show a particular portion of RIR 110 for the Somme period, the regiment who defended La Boisselle on 1 July. I believe that it is crucial to actually use and to understand how these were printed and presented to the public during the war. The second one has men as killed, severely wounded, missing and (s)lightly wounded. The final category is simply my take on the wording used to describe men who were lightly or slightly wounded and is not any part of the controversy of this discussion. Unfortunately it does not contain a category for injured or slightly wounded, remained with the regiment. These can be found on the first image but due to size restrictions I doubt anyone can really zoom in to the level required to see it.

Ralph

Here is number 2, the 2nd MG Coy, RIR 110.

If you note the bottom of the second image, the MG Coy, you will note the last entry is a correction of an earlier list. Apparently the last name was originally mispelled when first listed and now it is being corrected.

Ralph

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#9 PJA

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 09:01 PM

In the case of Churchill, Edmonds, whoever. I would tend to throw away all of their numbers and charts until the original sources are identified, the original numbers are posted and the basis, criteria, etc. for these numbers can be shown. Once this is done for the various countries and their statistics then it might be possible to see what sort of comparisons can be made, if any.

Ralph


Churchill must be given credit for doing just that.

His exposition of the sources is impeccable.

He was also proven to be uncannily accurate in his memorandum of August 1916, in so far as he gave a rather accurate reckoning of German casualties, which susequent revelations from the reichsarchiv endorsed.

In comparison with Churchill's presentation of the casualty statistics, the arguments of Edmonds are outrageously flawed, with ineptitude at best, wilful distortion at worst.

His contention that thirty per cent should be added to German casualty figures in order to render them fit for comparison with Allied statistics has been demolished nearly fifty years ago by Wiliams who exposed the flaws in Edmonds's method.

In any case, the existing published German returns, with their references to "severely wounded", "wounded", "lightly wounded" and "wounded remaining with units" are in themselves proof that the figures were comprehensive and that no distortion arose as a result of excluding categories of wounded that were reported in Allied returns. There is more evidence of exclusion of lightly wounded in the French returns than there is in the German - note the disparity in the ratio of killed to wounded for the two armies at Verdun.

My admiration for Churchill's marshalling of statistics in his chapter The Blood Test does not mean that I agree with his argument.
I think that he was unable - or unwilling - to acknowledge that Gallipoli and the Balkans amounted to a damaging and futile dispersal of resources, and that the war had to be won by defeating the main enemy on the Western Front.

Phil (PJA)

#10 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 10:30 PM

Phil, Churchill may have indeed had excellent numbers. Until I have the chance to see his figures and compare them to sources, his use of comparisons, etc. I will have to hold my final opnion on them. It does not mean they were incorrect, it only means that as this discussion over the decades runs from one set of comparisons to another and there are questions as to which, if any, are really a true comparison to a similar set, etc. the numbers need to be looked at.

The Churchill issues with the Gallipoli front, etc., his political position, etc. are not the main thrust of my review, it is simply a part of the overall issue. I hope to look at the remaining articles shortly.

Ralph

#11 PJA

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Posted 30 January 2011 - 11:27 PM

Oman goes on to indicate that the Reichsarchiv number for losses on the Somme from July through November were 436,651. Of these 164,055 were killed or missing, 272,596 were wounded. As 83,655 prisoners were taken the remaining 80,400 was the number of men killed.

The ratio of these numbers is 3.4 wounded to every 1 man killed. Oman claims this is far too low a proportion as the British ratio was 4.5 men wounded to every 1 man killed

Oman goes on the state that using similar loss ratios as the Allies the German wounded should be 360,000, then add 80,000 dead and 83,000 prisoners (his rounding up or down of earlier figures) and suddenly the reader gets the approximately 530,000 German losses that Oman had earlier indicated was the actual German losses on the Somme. Again, the revised numbers are based upon supposition, not fact.

Ralph


How could Oman expect to get away with that ?

The ratio of 4.5 wounded for every one killed in the British statistics apertains to the situation before the missing were factored in.
In the final reckoning, when the missing were, in all too many cases, found to be dead, the ratio changed to about 3.5 to one.
Oman has deduced that 80,400 Germans were killed in action after allowing for the missing who were killed, and then argues that the number should be multiplied by 4.5 to equate with the British ratio. He is badly in error here, or he is "pulling a fast one".
The total killed and missing is 164,055 : the total prisoners claimed by the Entente is 83,655; the remainder are either confirmed killed, or presumed killed...80,400. Yes, that is fine as far as it goes, and, I would suggest, probably a reasonable estimate. But that is after factoring the missing, and so, to equate with British criteria for counting wounded, the figure should be multiplied by 3.5, yielding a total of 281,000 wounded, 80,000 killed and 84,000 prisoners .....445,000 casualties in all : not much different from the Reichsarchiv returns.

I honestly think that Oman was twisting this way and that in order to suppport the view that the Somme casualty statistics were more evenly balanced than they actually were, and I am amazed that such facile and flawed calculations have been seriously countenanced.

Phil (PJA)

#12 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 05:05 PM

Phil,

While you are a firm believer of the numbers used by Churchill there are some reasons to look at them once more before making any final judgments. One rather common error was in transcribing a number. The numbers given for German losses on the Somme were supposedly given by the Zentralnachweissamt as 537,919 and that this number was obtained from the Verlsutlisten published during the war. As I pointed out in my earlier posts it would be almost impossible to allocate specific losses from this source to any particular action unless every detail was known for every man listed. This level of information was not even feasible when the Germans looked at losses and numbers while preparing the Sanitätsbericht Vol. III . Actually the Reichsarchiv figure that Churchill was using should have been 537,969. It is evident someone made a slight error in transcribing the numbers. I also want to look at the source of this number and the basis for creating it before accepting it as being the ‘correct’ number.

Without checking these ourselves, without taking the time to verify sources, numbers, time periods, etc. then are we really sure that the information provided is correct? 50 men will not make much difference in the overall comparison of numbers when we are talking of more than one half million men but it does beg the question, if this was a slight mistake, what others might exist? Are the comparisons being made using the numbers that apply to the specific points being made or were two unrelated numbers used to prove one point over another?

Continuing the overall review of the casualty issue.

There are many interesting things that statistics can be used for. Some of these are easier to spot than others. Take for instance a comparison between the killed, missing, wounded and sick, on the eastern and western fronts in the first year of the war, August 1914-July 1915.

I should note that even this issue, the period of time represented in any chart or comparison is key to trying to make sense of looking at numbers taken from different sources. How did this time period compare to a similar British report?

Back to the comparison. The percentage of men killed, missing, wounded and sick for the west was: 8.49%, 8.97%, 45.61% and 102.65% respectively.

In the east the same numbers were: 10.53%, 10.01%, 56.82% and 111.01% respectively.

It should be noted that in the number of men sick in the western front numbers 2,720 died without receiving medical care while on the eastern front 680 men died without receiving medical care.

What does this all tell us? I would rather be fighting in the west as the loss percentages were far lower than the east. Actually, while it does give that impression it is also not the case. In fact the percentage numbers are based on the total number of men that were fighting on these fronts. In the west the number was 1,894,923 and in the east it was 683,722.

While it appeared the Russians were causing more losses it was in fact the western front where the bulk of losses occurred. The only difference was that the smaller eastern front base number resulted in higher percentages even with smaller numbers in the different categories. In the case of the men killed the two numbers were: western front; 160,863 and the eastern front; 71,979.

My point being that percentages and numbers are a wonderful tool in understanding some aspects of the war but it all depends upon how they are used, how they are formed, the comparison between the base numbers, etc. You need to see the numbers and the percentages they form and compare them before coming to any conclusions.

Another issue that does not seem to have been discussed at any length was the issue of the true foundation for all war statistics. Obviously it is mainly concerned with the individual soldier. But how does this influence the end numbers and statistics?

When an author states that ‘in the Battle of the Somme the German losses were 537,919 men. Is this really a true statement or is it a matter of semantics and looking at the source of this number. Most readers, in my opinion, would see this is as the total number of individual men who became casualties on the Somme for the German army.

The problem as I see it is that it counts numbers on a report. What if one man accounted for several of these numbers. What if men who were slightly wounded possibly once or twice in this period were then killed toward the end of the battle? This means the possibility of either counting it as three casualty numbers for three men or three casualty numbers for one man. Are the numbers we so easily use actually represent one statistical entry for one man or was there the possibility that multiple entries could exist for a single soldier? If the latter is correct then the actual numbers of men who were represented by this number is lower while the actual numbers for the wounded, etc. and these numbers represent accounting of the physical injury only and not individuals.

Perhaps the only true number that could be close to being accurate is the number of dead, died from wounds, illness, etc. These are finite results and the man cannot be counted any further simply because he is no longer able to be wounded, become sick, etc.

The latest article to be reviewed was ‘The Somme and the Casualty Statistic Controversy’ by Robin Prior, “Churchill’s World Crisis”, as history. London , 1983. Chapter 12

The first portion deals with the strategic options for 1916, something that while relevant to this discussion is not being introduced in this thread. Part 2 deals with ‘Writing about the Somme (P. 212). Prior discusses the background for Churchill’s book, his collaboration and discussions with Edmonds , etc. Some interesting points are mentioned that are pertinent to the subsequent loss comparisons.

Prior indicates that Edmonds wrote to Churchill about the way parts of the World Crisis had been written; ‘in view of your high and esteemed position in the hearts of your countrymen I think you might cut some of the sarcasms about the military leaders.” Apparently he did tone down his work but there is no surviving copy of the drafts that could provide more detail to the present readers per Prior. Churchill wrote to Edmonds suggesting adding the innovation of the creeping barrage and if the person who should be given credit should also be mentioned. He apparently did not receive a response. It was designed to show that tactics in 1918 were not the same old slogging match as in earlier years. Prior indicates this innovation was then left out of the final edit and not mentioned.

Prior indicates that Edmonds advised Churchill that ‘I can find nothing against your general line of argument’ and ‘The Somme chapter is a work of art, it takes up every important factor and shows extraordinary insight and is perfectly fair.’ (Edmonds to Churchill 8 July 1926 and 6 August 1926). Prior is confused by these admissions as the casualty discussion and analysis made by Churchill was the same that Edmonds argued against in his publication of the Official History. Prior mentions that perhaps Edmonds changed his opinion or his written approach in order to be more sympathetic to the military leaders of the time. Apparently the reasons are not truly known.

I found the next portion quite interesting. Edmonds apparently did not want his assistance in Churchill’s book to be known to the public for a variety of reasons. In particular he mentions that if it became known then all sorts of people would be clamoring for help. A valid reason in my opinion.

The next portion covers the Somme and the points and criticisms raised by Churchill in his writings. This is followed by ‘Churchill and the Casualty Statistic Controversy, starting on page 221.

Prior mentions Churchill’s interest in this question as far back as 1916. He pursued his theory by collecting data in 1921, stopped for a while and then resumed it in 1923 when he requested data on losses from German sources. His data apparently resulted in his chapter ‘The Blood Test’.

This is where the discussion began with Edmonds regarding the additional 30% that needed to be added to German losses to cover the lightly wounded as mentioned in one of th earlier postings on this thread. The comments included ones already mentioned that it was notorious that the Germans did not include the lightly wounded in their casualty numbers and the damning evidence that Edmonds provides by stating that the fact was so well known that he (Edmonds) never troubled to collect statements on the subject.

Churchill apparently had the position that The German losses at any phase of the fighting were never higher than the opposing French. He also apparently stated that while fighting the British the ratio of losses was never less than 3 British to 2 German and at times the British losses were nearly double those of the Germans. He felt that the Germans never lost more men than they could replace under their system and as such could last indefinitely.

Prior indicates that perhaps these claims formed the basis for the controversy that followed. Edmonds approach of adding 30% to loss numbers based on a supposed German position that in reality was related to the discussion of the problems faced in supplying replacements to the army and in such they omitted the lightly wounded who were likely to rejoin the army shortly as mentioned in an article by M.J. Williams. Prior mentions Williams again in regard to related issues that include the idea of the Reichsarchiv being ‘net’ losses while those from the Zentralnachweiseamt was a ‘gross’ loss number. The discussion goes on regarding the methods used by Churchill and Edmonds to argue their points and then proceeds to discuss Oman and the articles by Williams where Williams apparently shows that Oman matched Somme loss numbers for France and Britain with German losses for the Western Front, clearly not a match and therefore the final results would be incorrect as a true ratio of losses.

Prior continues with the controversy between Churchill and Terraine who apparently did not agree with the flat 30% increase but instead thought it could be 30%, sometimes 25%, 20% but never lower than 15%. Terraine goes on to use the same logic discussing Passchendaele losses. Prior’s conclusion is that Terraine did not add any new evidence to refute the numbers used by Churchill, he just followed the same logic used by Edmonds .

Terraine apparently did question the numbers used by Churchill for the British losses and while the numbers used by several sources for the British losses do not match the difference was insufficient to show that the Germans lost less men than the British. Prior shows that other charts used by Churchill were not exactly the same and indicates part of this falls back to the time frame used for each set of numbers, they did not match!

It does appear that the numbers used by Churchill could be the best available but again a problem is noted. While one set of loss numbers for the British exclude colonial losses, Churchill’s do not. Again, a different basis for numbers will always produce a different set of numbers. Prior mentions that while Churchill’s numbers were taken from reliable sources they can be inaccurate as well. It seems Churchill would take the losses for the entire western front, deduct a certain percentage for losses that did not occur in a particular battle and then indicate these were the losses suffered at the Somme , etc.

Again, an assumption, a flat figure or one size fits all. If these ideas were used for one side then they should be used for the other side as well. However, the losses suffered on other parts of the front could vary widely from army to army and cannot be given a fixed percentage.

Prior indicates that while Churchill’s numbers would still prove the Germans lost less men than the British during the war with the exception of late 1918 when the ratios were almost identical and which was omitted by Churchill, possibly as it did not fit his theory. Prior points out that there are other factors to look at to explain why one side is worn down more than another, why the Germans collapsed even though they were killing more of the enemy.

Prior concludes that Churchill handled his materials with greater perspicacity and was scrupulous in his attempts to check its validity than his detractors such as Oman , Edmonds and Terraine. Prior felt that Edmonds , Oman and Terraine committed errors in their attempt to disprove Churchill’s theories.

Probably the best part of this article/chapter is that it was well documented on sources and tried to look at every aspect of the controversy and the final conclusions. What I did take away from Prior was that everyone seemed to be making certain assumptions on what numbers to use, how much to deduct, add, etc. and it was all based on guesses, assumptions and who knows what. The numbers need to

Since Williams is a main player in this controversy, his two articles are next.

Ralph

#13 PJA

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 06:33 PM

A superb historiographical survey, Ralph.

Forgive me ranting a bit on this, but it's crucial to identify that the 537,919 (537,969) figure was for the Western Front as a whole for the period July to October 1916. Churchill never claimed that this was for the Somme alone, and, most assuredly, neither did the Germans. The closest analysis of this figure was made by Wendt, who attributed roughly 390,000 of those casualties to the Somme. 87,000 to Verdun and the balance - some 60,000 - to the other sectors of the Western Front. Wendt went on to identify German casualties on the Somme alone for November as 45,000. Edmonds combined that 45,000 with the aforementioned 537,000 and announced that the Germans had admitted to 582,000 casualties for the Battle of the Somme...a figure that has been cited as "Gospel" by other commentators. Oh dear !

I have read through McRandle and Quirk, and also Prior's essay on the World Crisis as History. I also have the Sanitatsbericht Volume III....shame I can't read German.

I think McRandle and Quirk are wrong to suggest that the great bulk of the additional 494,000 German casualties that were reported afer the Armistice by the Zentralnachtweissant should be attributed to the last weeks of the war on the Western Front. The German figures from the Reichsarchiv for the Western Front for October 1918 are not quite complete; those for November are entirely lacking. It's probable that up until October 21st the figures were tabulated : what's missing are the last ten days of October and the first eleven days of November. I doubt that more than 150,000 German casualties were sustained between October 21st and November 11th ( British casualties for November alone were just over 20,000).

I believe that the greater part of those additional German casualties were properly attributable to all the previous fighting, and that the Reichsarchiv totals for the year by year tabulations need to be adjusted upwards slightly in order to allow for them. Churchill acknowledges these supplememtary German casualties, and alludes to their exclusion from some of his tabulations with the rationale that they could not alter the period by period compilations by more than eight per cent. He seeks to present his case by discussing the statistics in terms of their general order of magnitude, and by making some fairly sweeping estimates about the casualty exchange rate.

There is in Churchill's method a determination to be seen to be fair in his analysis : he readily refers to all the factors which might be cited to increase the figures presented by the Reichsarchiv; he is, I believe, candid and thorough in his assessment. The same cannot be said of Edmonds and Oman....at least, that's my take on it.

Ralph, please excuse my banging on about these Churchillian statistics : apparently, you've not yet read them. If you get the time and the inclination to do so, I would love to hear how you rate his analysis. The appendix at the back is (are?) very important. I'm sure you'll find things wrong - I have a couple of quibbles - but it's worth reading just for the power of the narrative.


An edit : I would contend that, if anything, Churchill's method might have overstated the German casualties. He displays the tabulations for German losses on the Franco-Belgian and British fronts seperately, aggregates them, and then adds on another 397,000 to allow for four fifths of the supplementary casualties that were not tabulated until after the war. But then he adds on an additional 140,000 to allow for losses inflcted by the Americans. The source of his error : those casualties inflicted by the US soldiers were surely contained within the additional 397,000 that he allows for....in effect, he's included them twice.
Phil (PJA)

#14 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 02:22 AM

It's Ok Phil. Everything I have read so far give him great credit for trying to locate and use the best possible figures for losses. There may be some issues with the comparisons, deductions for other areas of the front, etc. but at least he has used the numbers from the original sources well. No offence taken here, I am just concentrating on the overall dispute. I hope to see the charts again, it has been some 30 years or more since I saw a copy of the books. I wonder if they are on PDF yet on-line, that would be great.

One additional point to make on the entire thread. Apparently Edmonds and others never saw an actual 10 day Truppenkrankenrapport from the German army. Not only are there numerous entries for ration strength of a unit, the breakdown by rank, the coming and going of men, men who were killed or died, illnesses and of course a section for wounds that is not specifically broken down into light or severe categories. Given the items reported it would be impossible to tell if all wounded were reported, just the severe but then why not say severe on the form, etc. In fact it is a snap shot of a unit for every 10 days of the war.

The more I read the more I believe that all parties failed to familiarize themselves with the workings of the German system, reports, etc. I understand that it would be a monumental task but if you are going to argue one point over another the more you research primary sources the better the end product in my opinion.

Ralph

#15 PJA

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 10:09 AM

Ralph,

It seems that Churchill tried to synthesize different sets of German figures to present an overall view. The Reichsarchiv provide the primary source for the Western Front tabulations, the Zentralnachsweissant ( forgive spelling) for the overall German statistics.
I suppose both of those had the Verlust returns as common denominator.

There are bound to be discrepancies, and the relative obscurity of the Sanitatsbericht until relatively recently ( altnough they were completed in 1934) has not helped in the formation of a coherent view.

In his Appendix, Churchill emphasises that the German "dead" in the RA Western Front tabulations refer only to those who were killed on the field, and do not include deaths from wounds or disease, or those who were missing and subsequently added on to the list of killed. Yet a German official had advised Churchill's researcher that deaths from wounds and disease were included in the figures for deaths. In the Sanitats, the figure for killed is most definitely confined only to those confirmed killed in action : there are separate figures provided for deaths from wounds and disease, and I think it a serious flaw in McRandle and Quirk's essay that this is not identified....they imply that KIA means confirmed deaths from all casues.

The figures given in the RA tabulation for Western Front casualties August 1914 to January 1915 offer an intriguing disparity : approximately 171,000 dead, 557,000 wounded and 118,000 missing...with a caveat that these figures are based on estimates, because only "general" figures are available. It was not, apparently, the end of the war with its attendant collapse that caused the cessation of precise returns, but the beginning of the conflict with its massive and wiespread intensity. Moreover, the very high ratio of dead to wounded ( even before allowing for the missing) implies that maybe, in these figures, the dead do include confirmed deaths from all causes, while in the subsequent figures - from February 1915 onwards, only the killed in action are counted. Food for thought ?

Apart from that, the figure for 1914, from the Sanitats, is far lower than those RA estimates : furthermore, the total casualty reckoning from the ZN, by the end of 1915, is signifcantly higher than that from the Sanitats. And even these figures from the ZN, by the end of 1918, were short of the final total by virtually half a million, of which only a portion - albeit a significant one - were attributable to the last weeks of the war.

I feel that, in historiographical terms, Churchill's deployment of figures is vindicated, even if I disagree with his strategic view.

Phil (PJA)

#16 Latze

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 11:05 AM

Ralph and Phil,

great discussion. I enjoy reading it and learn a lot. Phil, if you need translation of specific parts of SanB III just let me know...

regards
Matt

#17 Jack Sheldon

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 12:16 PM

Phil

You will know from my German Army at Passchedaele, in which I examine the question, that I regard the use of the SanB by the British Official Historian as fishy at best. I am sure that one of the reasons that it has remained 'obscure' to the Anglophone audience is that Edmonds in his 1917 Vol 2 seems to have deliberately suppressed the existence of Vol III (which contains the figures) and played down the significance of the rest of it in a thoroughly misleading manner. You will recall that he wrote of the SanB in the bibliography to the BOH that it was, 'The official report on the German medical services in two volumes. Volume I deals with general organization; Volume II with the field forces and and armies of occupation, year by year and Army by Army in the different theatres. Percentages, but few absolute figures are given'. With a statement like that, is it any wonder that few scholars went after what seemed to be not only an obscure text, but a not very helpful one. Was this deliberate? I suspect so. Long before 1948 he had form on German casualties and I find it impossible to believe that he had no knowledge of Vol III or its contents, especially because that Volume has a prominent note on the title page: Das Stichwortverzeichnis fuer I. - III. Band befindet sich im II. Band [The subject index for Volumes I - III is contained in Volume II.].

Incidentally, given the view of the conspiracy theorists that the SanB was merely a propaganda exercise, it must be a source of continuing sadness that hardly a soul has heard of it and even fewer have read it. Goebbels nul points?

Jack

#18 PJA

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 02:03 PM

Matt and Jack,

Thanks for your comments.

Matt, your offer is most kind; it's re-assuring that people of your calibre are willing and able to help...I know that I'm missing out a lot because I do not understand the German.

Jack : I'm pleased that you reiterate your arguments about the essential untrustworthiness of Edmonds's casualty analysis. It's already been de bunked by Williams, but your observations enhance and endorse the comments he made in the mid sixties.

What causes me dismay is the readiness of too many reputable historians to accept so many of the BOH's assertions about the German casualties.

I note that in earlier volumes of the BOH, Edmonds makes observations about German losses that are not shot through with the distortions that appear when he writes about 1916 and 1917. That enhances my suspicions about his agenda.

Phil (PJA)

#19 PJA

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 05:12 PM

[quote name='PJA' timestamp='1296300835' post='1539893']
On my shelves I have some old correspondence from a British commentator residing in Germany at the time - Lord knows how and why his presence there was tolerated - and since it was written at the time of the event, it has a striking relevance to this thread.
The basis of his letter was that he was able to see the published German casualty statistics as they were displayed to the public, and they were very clearly sufficiently comprehensive to include the slightly wounded. He actually demolished the claims that were made by Edmonds later : an interesting suggestion that claims about surpression of German casualty statistcs were being made at the time, and he obviously felt compelled to refute them. My challenge - and this will be a Herculean effort for me, too - is to find that correspondence, which I have not seen for more than twelve years. I remember reading it and thinking what a superb repudiation this would make to the Edmonds school of the casualty controversy.

More to come : my priority is to find that letter!

Phil (PJA)
[/quote

Found it !!:hypocrite:

Bought from a lovely old second hand bookshop in Arundel, West Sussex, five mouldy old volumes, for the price of £5.50p.

LAND&WATER, The World's War, Special Articles by HILAIRE BELLOC A.H.POLLEN COL. F.N. MAUDE C.B. (Late R.E.)
L.BLIN DESBLEDS &c &c

Published by The County Gentleman Publishing Co. Ltd, Central House, London WC

This is from Correspondence at the back of Part 27, Volume III, the date of the article being February 20, 1915 :

THE GERMAN LOSSES

To the Editor of LAND AND WATER

DEAR SIR, - Mr. Belloc this week makes an interesting calculation of the total German losses up to date. This calculation is based upon the assumption that the Germans do not include in their lists the numbers of those lightly wounded.

This assumption, however, is not correct. During a long period of captivity in the enemy's country, one of my few pastimes was the ghoulish one of poring over the endless Verlustlisten ; after each name was given one of the followinging categories : leicht verwundet, verwundet, schwer verwundet, schwer varletzt [ what does that mean, please ?], vermisst, gefangen [?] or tot. Of these leicht verwundet appeared oftener than any other category but verwundet. I have still in my possession a Verlustlist, in which eighty out of a total of 420 casualties are specifically given as "leicht verwundet." - Yours faithfully,

C. J. THOMAS, M. B. , B. Sc.

2, Savoy Hill, W. C.


What a triumph to have found that ! It comes at a price, though.....my wife has told me that I must now tidy up all the shelves !:blush:


Phil (PJA)

#20 Jack Sheldon

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 06:41 PM

schwer verletzt = seriously injured; gefangen = captured (i.e. PW)

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#21 PJA

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 07:35 PM

Thank you, Jack : presumably severely injured differentiates from battle casualties, which would be severely wounded ?

Phil (PJA)

#22 Jack Sheldon

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 08:03 PM

I assume so, though I am not sure. They even used to note suicides separately. However we need a definitive word from Ralph on this.

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#23 PJA

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 11:16 PM

Looking through the McRandle and Quirk article ( let me confess that I cannot read my own Sanitatsbericht), I note that, in certain "quiet" periods of warfare on the Western Front, the numbers reported as wounded are so huge compared with the numbers confirmed killed, that I have to suspect that sick and injured are included with battle casualties. Far from being a case of German figures excluding lightly wounded, we have here a blatant case of quite the reverse....a huge, huge inflation of numbers wounded, out of all proportion to those posted as killed, and vastly greater than the Allied counterpart ratios. An example :

Sanitatsbericht, for December 1915 and January 1916, Western Front total, against British and French fronts : killed, 6,062; wounded, 64,974 , missing 1,704 : Aggregate: 72,470. The proportion of wounded to killed is approaching eleven to one ; even if all the missing were killed, it would still be well over eight to one.

The Reichsarchiv, however, return the following totals for the same period : killed, 7,902; wounded, 29,406; missing, 2,394 : aggregate ', 39,702. In this case the wounded outnumber the killed by 3.72 to 1.

Now, consider the British for December 1915 and January 1916 ( source = Military Effort) :

Killed, 3,815; wounded 18,047 ; missing 130; aggregate : 22,092. The wounded outnumber the killed by 4.73 to 1.

Clearly, the Sanitatsbericht , far from excluding lightly wounded, return a total of wounded one hundred and twenty per cent greater than those reported in the Reichsarchiv, and against a smaller number of killed. It's tempting to conclude that the Sanitats. figure is inflated by inclusion of sick and injured. This feature of the sanitats tabulations is only apparent in the quiet periods of routine trench warfare. The proportion of killed increases dramatically in the most intense fighting.

If we agree with Edmonds, and follow his contention that the ratio of German wounded to killed should be adjusted to conform with that of the British, the German casualty total in this case would be increased by twenty per cent. I mention this in order to demonstrate that I have not dismissed Edmonds's contentions out of hand. If we take the analysis to cover the more intense fighting of July to December 1916, and set the ratio in the Reichsarchiv against that of the British figures for that period, we see that, against the British front alone, the Germans reported their loss as 38,473 killed, 154, 226 wounded and 43,495 missing for a total of 236,194 casualties. The proportion of wounded to killed is almost exactly four to one. Against this, the British reported 88,918 killed, 424,361 wounded and 36,657 missing for a total of 513,279. Here the wounded outnumber the killed by 4.77 to 1. Adjusting the ratio of German wounded to killed to equate with that of the British would result in an overall increase of twelve point four per cent in the total German casualties. Even if we indulge Edmonds's arguments, the increase in German casualties does not come to anything like thirty per cent.

If Edmonds wanted to make a more convincing case to inflate the number of German wounded, the Sanitatsbericht were available for him. Yet he chose not to cite this opus when he dealt with the casualties of 1916, because the figures it tabulated for the Somme -and, later, for Passchendaele - were unpalatable to him.

Phil (PJA)

#24 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 01 February 2011 - 11:19 PM

Jack, They did report suicides as suicides so no hiding the issue. Also, heart attacks were noted. There are quite a few injured men, some slightly, some severely and some fatally. Batteries often have these and I can only assume it is from the battery horses kicking and biting them as horses do at times and as I have seen in at least one regimental history from Bavaria.

I will be posting the final two bits shortly and then looking at one more piece a member has brought to my attention.

Ralph

#25 Ralph J. Whitehead

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Posted 02 February 2011 - 12:28 AM

Williams part 1, Thirty Per Cent: a Study in Casualty Statistics by M.J. Williams.

Basically it is a discussion of the 30% increase in German losses that was put forth by Edmonds. Edmonds mentions two sets of figures.

‘Net’ loss numbers taken from 10 day unit reports that excluded men treated in hospitals in corps areas, the lightly wounded.

‘Gross’ losses, details from the Zentralnachweiseamt compiled since 1918 from different sources; medical reports and 10 day reports and the Verlustlisten that would include the lightly wounded omitted under the ‘Net’ loss system.

The only real problem with this method of thinking is that the 10 day reports were incorporated into the Verlustlisten on an ongoing basis during the war. If the lightly wounded were excluded as suggested by Edmonds then they would not appear in print [as they do, see example above] nor could they then be counted by the post-war Zentralnachweiseamt.

Williams goes on to discuss the numbers, the methods and line of thought that produced the 30% issue. One part was the loss numbers for Verdun. Churchill gave a number of 426,519 for the German losses, Hermann Wendt, a German author gave a number of 336,831. The difference was reported to be 33%. Another set gave a difference of 27%. Add the two together, divide by 2 and you get 30% as an average.

Wendt’s source was the 10 day reports from the 5th Army for the Verdun fighting that were sent to the OHL and later presented in the printed report in the Verluste West series.

Williams discusses where Churchill obtained his numbers and methods used to adjust for non Somme battle related losses. He confirms Churchill’s numbers came from the Reichsarchiv.

The basic error by Edmonds was how he compared numbers. By taking all German losses suffered on the western front and assigning them all to losses suffered fighting at Verdun he could not come up with a reliable loss ratio. In fact it seems Edmonds also included all German losses that occurred fighting the British as well and thereby inflated the German losses even more.

Edmonds uses the same flawed logic to provide Somme loss numbers as well and tries to match numbers from different time periods, from different parts of the front and make a sensible comparison. Using these methods the German losses will always be far higher than they actually were.

Williams discusses the comparison of numbers, sources and ratios in full detail with ample footnotes as to source materials in his first article as well as in second one that I have also reviewed. His opinion is that Edmonds math comparison is baseless and in one point he shows a major flaw in Edmonds calculations. Apparently when Edmonds compared two loss numbers he used to obtain his 27 and 33% differences when arguing lightly wounded were not counted the difference between one set of numbers is not the 33% he arrived at, it is in fact 26.6%.
Williams concludes that the evidence completely fails to support the conclusion to add 30% to German losses.

The big difference between articles such as Williams 1 and 2 and some others I have read is the level of detail, footnotes, sources, etc. I have checked some of the footnote entries and found them to be accurate. Others it seem simply rehash the same old numbers in the same old manner that led to the many errors already pointed out.

I also get the opinion that Edmonds and Oman among others never saw a copy of the 10 day report filed by each German unit, the Truppenkrankenrapporte. These do include details on unit strength, men who died and how they died, illnesses, wounds and injuries. It does not mention lightly vs severely wounded, it simply mentions wounded by being shot, wounded by cold steel, broken bones, sprains, dislocations other wounds and injuries, etc.

I note jack Sheldon’s views on the omission of the Sanitätsbericht Vol. III as being intentional. Given all of the materials I have reviewed, the apparent deceit in preparing and presenting loss details for whatever personal, private or professional reason, I would have to agree. It is sloppy work at best and even the omission of the volume and it’s existence would cast further doubt on just about anything Edmonds put forth on the subject of casualties. As to his ither work I have no doubts that he provided a fair and balanced point of view of the actions of the military during the war.

I can make the last statement as in my reading of various sections I have not come across any glaring errors and I can only base it upon my rather limited background on the British effort during the war. I will leave that possible forum thread to those who have more experience in these subjects.

I have copies of many of the items mentioned as sources in these postings including the Verlustlisten, Sanitätsbericht, etc. If anyone would like to see further examples from these sources I will do my best to get legible copies on the forum and keep within the 100kb guidelines.

Ralph