Gassed patients are treated at the 326th Field Hospital near Royaumeix, France, on August 8, 1918.
Overall some 15 million men were wounded by their service during WW1 and this had enormous social, economic, demographic and political consequences.
In 1919, the newly formed Weimar Republic, on the verge of wild inflation, bankruptcy, and political chaos, discovered that Germany was suddenly responsible for some 2.7 million disabled veterans, 1,192,000 war orphans, and 533,000 widows. Almost all of these people were younger than thirty and the new German Republic might be responsible for them for another half-century or more. Calculating war pensions proved expensive and contentious and only 800,000 Germans received invalidity pensions.
In Britain during the late 1930’s, 639,000 ex soldiers and Officers were still drawing disability pensions. This figure includes 65,000 men whose disabilities were not physical, but mental. Some servicemen were so traumatised by the experiences in the First world war, that they spent the rest of their lives in hospital. The victims of the First World War were not confined to the battlefield. The attempted genocide of the Armenian people cost between 800,000 and 1.3 million lives. As many as 750,000 German civilians died as a result of the Allied Trade blockade. More Serbian civilians (82,000) died as result of the conflict, largely from disease and starvation, than Serbian soldiers (45,000).
Millions of soldiers and civilians alike were killed by the virulent Influenza pandemic that left none of the warring countries untouched in 1918 and 1919. In addition, there were the many millions of largely silent victims of the Great War: the widows, parents, siblings, children and friends who lost loved ones. Historians have only recently turned their attention to the many ways in which survivors sought to cope with the grief caused by these innumerable personal losses. During the war, in a brief essay entitled “Mourning and Melancholia,” Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) identified grieving as a complex, painful, and psychologically crucial process which had become, because of the war, an immense social problem.