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Casualties (World War One)

02 Apr 2015

Our Subjects / Ā Mātou Kaupapa:
History, Society and culture

How many people died in World War One by country? How many were soldiers and how many were civilians?

LEVEL: Secondary

The exactness and accuracy of such numbers is always questionable: in the chaos of war it is difficult to keep accurate statistics. While the numbers of military personnel who served can be calculated fairly accurately, deaths can be attributed to both combat and other reasons including accident and disease. Civilian casualty numbers are even more problematic. Civilians can be directly affected by aerial bombing, occupying forces, blockades or sanctions, which can lead to shortages in food and medical supplies. 

Further, while mortality rates among civilians increased during World War One, it is impossible to accurately assess what proportion of these deaths is due to natural mortality as opposed to the war and wartime conditions.

It is usually accepted that most of these numbers are 'best-guess' estimates. Currently there isn't a huge amount of information on this topic on the internet.

There is an article on Wikipedia which contains detailed statistics on casualties in World War OneTake a look at the list of sources that were used to write this article. There is a long list of references to where the figures quoted have been taken from and notes about the sources used. All this indicates that this article is reliable.

HOT TIP: You need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. If you are using this site, it always pays to check the information against that on other sites or in books from the library. Not all articles on Wikipedia are as thorough as this one!

This page from FirstWorldWar.com also provides statistics and some interesting notes about why figures are so difficult to calculate. The easiest way to naviage to this page is to use the search box at the top of the homepage. This website includes a general reference page showing where they have taken their information from – however this site hasn’t been updated since 2009 so we suggest checking information against the Wikipedia article and its sources.

HOT TIP: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the ‘about us’ link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

An excellent place to find statistics about New Zealanders in World War One is NZHistory. To find the article choose 'New Zealand at war' from the three links under the main introduction. Next, choose 'First World War' from the options and scroll down this page a little until you see 'Researching the First World War'. Finally select 'First World War by the numbers' - it contains lots of well-researched information.

HOT TIP: NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

Make sure you check out our other entries here on ManyAnswers about World War One

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