After the war women far outnumbered men and many were never to marry or have children. The 1921 United Kingdom Census found 19,803,022 women and 18,082,220 men in England and Wales, a difference of 1.72 million which newspapers called the “Surplus Two Million.” In the 1921 census there were 1,209 single women aged 25 to 29 for every 1,000 men. In 1931, 50% were still single, and 35% of them did not marry while still able to bear children.
In France, approximately 11% of the entire population were killed or wounded during the war. Almost 1.4 million Frenchmen died in the service of their country and another 4.2 million men were wounded – a casualty rate of 74% of all those mobilized in the French Empire. They left behind 600,000 widows, 986,000 orphans, and 1.1 million war invalids. 10% of the male population of France had been wiped out, a figure that rises to 20% for the ‘under 50’ age group. Of the 470,000 males born in France in 1890, and who were 28 years old when the war ended, half were killed or seriously wounded. In Belgium more than 40,000 young men were killed.
Much of France and Belgium, where the main WW1 battles were fought, were left devastated. The Western Front, some 250 miles long and 25-30 miles wide, had been reduced to a wasteland. 1,659 towns and communes had been blotted out, 2,363 others were wrecked, and 630,000 houses were destroyed or seriously damaged. So many mines were ruined, that the output of coal was reduced by a half. Some 21,000 factories were gutted, and the great manufacturing centres at Lille, and the Longwy district, were systematically despoiled of machinery vital to their prosperity. Even today, huge tracts of land remain cordoned off from the public and people still die from unexploded munitions left over from the war.