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Report Inaccuracies

How do we measure the North East’s contribution to the Great War?

13,000 DLI and 17,000 Northumberland Fusiliers died

During the First World War, some 13,000 Durham Light Infantrymen and 17,000 Northumberland Fusiliers were killed in action, died of wounds or died of disease. Most, but not all, of these men came from the North East of England.

It is impossible to provide exact numbers of the men and women from the North East who served in the First World War. Statistical information gathered at the time is not accurate enough to allow detailed analysis on a regional basis.

Local regiments such as The Durham Light Infantry and The Northumberland Fusiliers recruited thousands of soldiers from the North East but also took volunteers and conscripts from other parts of the UK. Equally, thousands of men from the North East joined army units that had no direct connection with this region.

Contemporary reports suggest that the North East’s initial response to the call for volunteers in 1914 was possibly the highest in the country. Local newspapers are filled with lists of hundreds of names of volunteers from colliery villages across County Durham.

To gain an impression of the numbers involved one can only compare the data that is available.

Lists of those who died in the Great War were published by His Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1921, arranged by regiment, corps or other unit, with a separate volume for officers. Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19 is now available as a searchable database.

Another data source for soldiers who died is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website.

Here are the numbers for regiments which recruited in the North East.

Border Regiment
Soldiers Died: Other ranks 6405, Officers 357, total 6762
CWGC: 6985

Durham Light Infantry
Soldiers Died: Other ranks 11950, Officers 607, total 12557
CWGC: 13282

King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Soldiers Died: Other ranks 9033, Officers 417, total 9450
CWGC: 9654

Northumberland Fusiliers
Soldiers Died: Other ranks 16159, Officers 846, total 17005
CWGC: 17754

Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
Soldiers Died: Other ranks 7054, Officers 449, total 7503
CWGC: 7779

To set these numbers in context, the CWGC website records a total of 1,074819 deaths in the First World War, and of these 831937 were serving in UK forces.

In addition to those who died, more than eight in ten soldiers who served in the British Army in the First World War survived.

Perhaps the best indicator of the total number of men who served in British Army units (casualties and survivors) in WW1 is the Medal Index Cards database, based principally on campaign medal index cards. Every serving soldier was entitled to a campaign medal or medals. Here are the numbers for regiments which recruited in the North East.

Border Regiment: 109956
Durham Light Infantry: 83425
King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry: 22596
Northumberland Fusiliers: 102785
Yorkshire Regiment: 159561

On 11 November 2018 we will remember them.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:

British Army medal index cards 1914-1920:

Contributed by Durham County Record Office

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