Group of soldiers around an open fire, 1914-1918.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Postcard depicting a group of soldiers of the Essex Regiment. At the outset of the First World War the British Army was an entirely profesional volunteer force. The British Expeditionary force sent to France in 1914 numbered 120,000, about half the Army's entire strength. By the end of 1914, the casualties sustained made it obvious that a much larger number of troops was going to be required. The ensuing recruitment campaign produced some 2.6 million volunteers, sometimes whole streets or factories joining up together. By 1916, it had become necesary to introduce conscription to replace the loses. At the end of the war, British casualties stood at approximately 662,000 killed, 1.6 million wounded, and 140,000 mising, presumed dead.