British Ignorance of World War One Still in Abundance


Research carried out on Britons about their knowledge of First World War statistics has raised some alarming information on their ignorance of the Great War. Fewer than half of the Britons questioned had any idea that US and Canadian troops fought in the war, and only a third knew of the involvement of Australia and New Zealand. Less than half of the respondents knew that Turkey fought on the side of Germany, despite the notoriety of the abortive invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula in which 61,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders were killed.

Only 38% of British respondents knew that North America was involved in the war, despite the fact that Canada, as a dominion, declared war on Germany in 1914 and the US joined the war in April 1917. Approximately 67,000 Canadian troops and 114,000 from the US were killed.

The research was carried out in six other countries as well as Britain, and 27% of Indian respondents believed that India fought against Britain, when in fact 1.4 million Indians fought as part of the British forces.

John Worne, the British Council’s director of strategy, said “Our research shows that the things we in the UK know and remember the most from the First World War are the harrowing images and iconic stories from the Western Front. But we shouldn’t forget that the war touched many other parts of the world”.