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Chapter 5 - The dead

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2015

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Summary

War of attrition involves a form of Devil’s accounting. The dead of each side are weighed in the balance and that with the least dead is deemed the winner. By late 1916, when Haig’s dream of a decisive breakthrough had been shown to be a mirage, he used comparative casualty rates as the measurement of success, arguing that the troops fighting on the Somme could see that ‘they are slowly but surely destroying the German armies on their front’. What Haig ignored was that the British forces were facing far more rapid destruction. During the Battle of the Somme the British suffered 432 000 casualties of whom some 150 000 were killed, while the Germans lost a total of about 230 000 men, a little more than half the British casualties.

In the fighting at Pozières I Anzac Corps lost 23 000 officers and men, killed or died of wounds, wounded and missing. Of these, the 1st Division lost 7700, the 2nd Division 8100 and the 4th 7100. Bean observed that these casualties, in proportion to the numbers engaged, were the greatest ever suffered by I Anzac Corps. He calculated that the rate of casualties in each Australian division was roughly equivalent to the casualties sustained by each of the forty-one British divisions engaged in the Somme fighting. The difference was that for the AIF the losses bit deeper as practically the whole of the Australian Army in France was affected. In addition to the four divisions engaged at Pozières, the 5th Division had lost 5500 men in battle at Fromelles in Flanders on the night of 19/20 July 1916. Only the Australian 3rd Division, which was training in Britain, escaped, but it was soon being plundered of men to make up for losses in the other divisions.

Type
Chapter
Information
Pozières
Echoes of a Distant Battle
, pp. 93 - 111
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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  • The dead
  • Christopher Wray
  • Book: Pozières
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316145142.006
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  • The dead
  • Christopher Wray
  • Book: Pozières
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316145142.006
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The dead
  • Christopher Wray
  • Book: Pozières
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316145142.006
Available formats
×