When the First World War broke out the British Prime Minister was Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith. Generally known as H. H. Asquith, he served as the Liberal Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916 – the last to lead that party in government without a coalition. He had taken the United Kingdom into the First World War, but resigned amid political conflict in December 1916. He was succeeded by David Lloyd George who had been Asquith’s Secretary of War.
On Thursday 6th January 1916 the ‘Military Service Act’ was approved by Parliament. Conscription had been an emotive subject for quite some time with serious opposition by many – particularly the Labour Party and the trade unions as well as other individuals including David Lloyd George. It introduced compulsory military service for all unmarried men between 18 and 41. The introduction of this Act was more a political than a practical measure as men had been volunteering in large numbers. As a result the problem was not shortage of men but shortage of equipment to turn them into soldiers.
At this same time, in a written Parliamentary answer Asquith had supplied the following British Casualty figures since the start of the First World War to 9th December 1915 (14 months). The figures are frightening:
In France and Flanders the figures are:
Officers:- 4,829 killed; 9,943 wounded; 1,699 missing: total 16,473
Other ranks:- 77,473 killed; 241,359 wounded; 52,685 missing: total 371,517
Dardanelles figures are:
Officers:- 1,667 killed; 3,028 wounded; 350 missing: total 5,045
Other ranks:-24,536 killed; 72,781 wounded; 12,194 missing: total 109,511
Other Theatres are:
Officers:- 871 killed; 694 wounded; 100 missing: total 1,665
Other ranks:- 10,548 killed; 10,953 wounded; 2,518 missing: total 24,019
The grand total of Officers and Other Ranks for all the theatres of battle are calculated as:
Killed 119,924; Wounded 338,758; Missing 69,546.