Taking into account all the countries across the globe, it is estimated that just under 9,722,000 soldiers died through military action in the war. In addition, roughly 21 million were injured. These figures do not really take into account the mentally traumatised, ranging from shell-shocked men who would never be sane again to the millions suffering from what we would now recognize as PTSD. The figures also fail to consider the civilians killed by the war – approximately 950,000 who died from direct military action, but also a shocking 5,893,000 civilians who died from the impact of war-related famine and disease. These statistics are sobering indeed.
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Over the four years and three months of war, around 2 million German soldiers died for the Central Powers, along with 1,100,000 Austro-Hungarians, 770,000 Turks and 87,500 Bulgarians. For the Entente, around 2 million Russians died, together with 1,400,000 French, 1,115,000 from the British Empire, 650,000 Italians, 250,000 Romanians and 116,000 Americans.
Germany had been at the very heart of the Great War. An unfortunate combination of bellicosity and inept diplomacy had left Germany facing war on two fronts. The military establishment, as represented by the Chief of General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke (the Younger), had staked everything on the gamble that in 1914 the superbly trained and disciplined German Army could swiftly defeat France and then use its central communications to move its armies over to smash the Russians in the east. In the end the gamble failed and the Germans were defeated.
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In September 1914, the Battle of the Marne demonstrated that France would not be quickly defeated – the gamble had failed. With that failure, as Moltke the Elder and Alfred von Schlieffen would both have recognized, Germany was almost certainly doomed to defeat. The addition of the British and Americans to the list of Germany’s enemies only made matters more certain.
- Peter Hart, The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013
- John Mosier, The Myth of the Great War: A New Military History of World War I, Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney, 2001
- Rodney P. Carlisle, World War I, Infobase Publishing, New York, 2007
- Peter Simkins, Geoffrey Jukes, Michael Hickey, Hew Strachan, The First World War: The War to End All Wars, Osprey Publishing. Oxford, 2003
- Hew Strachan, The First World War, Penguin Books, London, 2003