Deadliest Wars in British History

#1 World War I (1914-1918)

With a staggering 888,000 military casualties - over DOUBLE the military casualties of World War II - the first World War remains absolutely uncontested as the deadliest military conflict in British history. Also known as the Great War, the armed conflict began on 28th July 1914 shortly after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and saw around 20 million military and civillian casualties in total. Suffice to say, though Britain emerged victorious from the war, it was not without great cost: an entire generation of young men with bright futures ahead of them had been lost on the western front. As a direct result of the losses suffered in the war, the British Empire began to decline and the United States came forward to take up the mantle of preeminent global power.

#2 World War II (1939-1945)

Only twenty years after the Great War had devastated Europe, World War II began. While the number of casualties globally far exceeded that of the First World War, this was not the case for Britain. However, considerable military losses were still sustained - almost 400,000 men. One important factor is that the second World War saw the wide-spread implementation of military technology into Britain’s arsenal, meaning that there was less of an emphasis on infantry trench warfare. For example, the Battle of Britain was fought entirely in the air, and while it was arguably one of the most significant battles in the war, the military losses were comparatively small.

#3 English Civil War (1642-1651)

While it is much harder to calculate an accurate death toll given the age of the war, historians have estimated that at least 200,000 English soldiers and civilians were killed. While this is a significantly smaller number than the losses seen in WW1 and WW2, it must be considered that the population of the country was much lower in the 17th century. As such, proportionately, the losses sustained are roughly equal to that of the losses suffered in the First World War.

#4 War of the Roses (1455-1487)

The War of the Roses was a civil military conflict that saw two branches of the previously reigning royal family, the Plantagenets, pitted against each other in a bid to claim the throne for their respective branches. The two houses were Lancaster and York. The war raged for over thirty years, and extinguished the male lines of both dynasties, resulting in the infamous Tudor family of England inheriting the throne from the York dynasty. Over one hundred thousand soldiers and civilians died in the war, which, again, is a staggering amount when you take into account the population of England at the time, which amounted to no more than three million.

#5 Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815)

The Napoleonic Wars was the biggest armed conflict that Europe had ever seen, pitting esteemed military genius Napoleon, then the Emperor of France, against almost the entirety of Europe - and he almost won! While the Napoleonic Wars were certainly more devastating for the continental countries with France, for example, losing around one million soldiers, the losses for Britain were still massive. It has been estimated that roughly one hundred thousand British soldiers were dead or missing after the wars’ conclusion, and many of the survivors returned to poor living and economic conditions.

#6 Crimean War (1853-1856)

The Crimean War was an armed military conflict fought between two factions consisting of the British Empire, France and the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) on one, and the Russian Empire on the other. It was motivated primarily by joint English and French interests in maintaining the balance of power in the east, and their concerns that the already decaying Ottoman Empire would not survive the war without western intervention. In total, the war saw the loss of around fifty-thousand British troops.

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