British Empire

Page 8 – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland


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1914 Map

UK of Great Britan and Ireland Map thumbnail

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General facts

  • Population: 46 million (including 4.3 million in Ireland)
  • Capital: London (1914 population of Greater London 7.1 million; ‘Inner London’ 4.5 million)


  • Head of State: King George V (6 May 1910 – 20 January 1936)
  • Head of Government:
    • Prime Minister Herbert H. Asquith (5 April 1908 – 5 December 1916)
    • Prime Minister Lloyd George (5 December 1916 – 22 October 1922)

Participation in the War

  • Entered the war: 4 August 1914 (British Empire declared war on Germany)
  • Ceased hostilities: 11 November 1918 (armistice with Germany)
  • Ended belligerent status: 10 August 1920 (Treaty of Sèvres signed with Ottoman Empire) 

Military Forces


  • Peacetime strength 1914: 247,500
  • Reserves 1914: 414,000 (Territorial Force 258,000; Army Reserve 156,000)
  • Total mobilised during the war: 4,006,000 (England 3,041,200; Scotland 557,600; Wales 273,000; Ireland 134,200)


  • Peacetime strength 1914: 136,500
  • Reserves: 28,000 Fleet Reserve and 30,000 Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR)

Fleet (1914)

  • Battleships (Dreadnoughts): 24
  • Battleships (pre-Dreadnoughts): 38
  • Battlecruisers: 10
  • Cruisers: 47
  • Light cruisers: 61
  • Destroyers: 225
  • Submarines: 75


  • Introduced: 27 January 1916
  • Total conscripted by end of war: 2.5 million
  • Total number of conscripts sent overseas by the end of the war:

The Military Service Act was passed by the wartime coalition government of Prime Minister Lloyd George. All single men in England, Scotland and Wales aged 19 and 41 were liable for compulsory military service in the British Army. Only those deemed to be medically unfit, in work essential to the war industry or officially recognised as conscientious objectors were granted exemptions. The Act was amended in May 1916 to include married men. Continued heavy losses led to further amendments to the Act in April 1918: its coverage was extended to Ireland (although in fact it was never implemented there) and the minimum age was reduced to 18.


British Army

  • Dead (all causes): 702,410
  • Wounded: 1,622,625
  • (both figures include Royal Flying Corps up to 31 March 1918)

Royal Navy

  • Dead (all causes): 32,287
  • Wounded: 5135
  • (both figures include Royal Naval Air Service up to 31 March 1918)

Royal Air Force (from 1 April 1918)

  • Dead (all causes): 4042
  • Wounded:
  • The RAF was formed on 1 April 1918 through a merger of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service.

British Merchant Marine

  • Dead : 14,000
  • Wounded:

Civilian casualties from German attacks on England 1914-1918

Air raids (by aircraft and airships)

  • Dead: 1117 (including 252 children)
  • Wounded: 2886 (including 542 children)

Naval bombardments of English coastal towns

  • Dead: 143 (including 43 children)
  • Wounded: 604 (including 230 children)

Total Casualties (Military)

  • Dead: Estimates range from over 752,000 (as published in 1922 by the British War Office in Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War 1914–1920) and 888,000 (according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Annual Report 2010-2011)


  • Ian Beckett and Keith Simpson, A Nation In Arms: A Social Study of the British Army in the First World War, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1985
  • Keith Jeffery, Ireland and the Great War, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000

Lance-Corporal Charles Alfred Jarvis VC

Western Front, 23 August 1914: Under constant and heavy German fire, Lance-Corporal Charles Alfred Jarvis, Royal Engineers, successfully attaches demolition charges to the Jemappes bridge and blows it up during the British Expeditionary Force’s retreat from Mons. In recognition of his bravery during this action Jarvis is subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross, thereby becoming the first soldier in the British Expeditionary Force to receive this award, the British Empire’s most prestigious military decoration for valour in the face of the enemy.

How to cite this page

'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 1-Sep-2014