Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

History of the Great War of 1914 to 1918 (1919)

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.

Terms of Peace Imposed by the Allies, 1919

In the conference held at Versailles which continued to sit for nearly five months, thirty-two allied countries were represented by official delegates. The five great allied nations, Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the United States, were each represented by five delegates, while the other nations and Overseas Dominions of Great Britain, ranking as such, were represented by delegates varying in number from one to three. Dr. Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, was elected Chairman of the Conference. A Supreme Council of ten members was appointed, consisting of two delegates from each of the five great nations already mentioned. Subsequently this council was divided and an executive council established, consisting of the Prime Ministers of France, Great Britain and Italy, and the President of the United States. The council of allied delegates met officially on January 18, 1919, to consider the terms to be submitted to the German delegation.

One of the first steps taken by this conference was to invite the representatives from the contending Russian factions to meet on Prince's Island in the Bosporus to debate a pacific settlement of their internecine warfare. This plan was positively rejected by the Bolsheviks and met with opposition from other Russian parties. On January 24, the conference adopted a plan for the organization of a League of Nations and a committee was appointed to draft a covenant. On January 30, a plan of governing the conquered German colonies and other territories, inhabited by unprogressive races, through mandatories granted to various nations subject to the direction and approval of the League, was formally adopted. The terms of the covenant were completed on February 14. A few days later, President Wilson sailed for the United States, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to assassinate Dr. Clemenceau.

A report from the International Labour Committee of the conference was adopted on April 11. Three days afterwards formal demands for reparation from Germany were approved.

The German Government was invited to send delegates to Versailles for the acceptance of the treaty. The terms of the treaty with Austria were next considered. The Italian delegates demanded the cession of the city of Fiume. In accordance with the provisions of a secret agreement between Italy and other powers before the entry of the United States into the war, Italy had been promised accessions of territories in Dalmatia in which Fiume was not included. President Wilson firmly opposed a cession of that city to Italy. The Italian delegates returned to Rome on April 24, as a protest of their dissatisfaction and did not come back to Versailles until May 7. On April 28, a revised form of covenant for the League of Nations was presented in which the Monroe Doctrine was formally incorporated.

The German delegates, headed by Baron von Brockdorff-Rantzau, presented their credentials on May 1. The treaty of peace was presented to them on May 7 at Versailles, that date being purposely selected in commemoration of the anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. It was announced at the same time that Great Britain and the United States had entered into a solemn agreement to assist France whenever attacked by Germany at any time in the future. The German delegates and other leading men declared that the treaty would not be signed, and the German Government formally proclaimed a week of mourning. From time to time notes were presented by the German delegates to the supreme council of the four great powers requesting concessions and objecting to the terms proposed. On May 16 it was announced that the treaty would become effective when ratified by Germany and three of the allied nations. On May 28, the German reply to the terms offered was presented and this was followed by several alternative proposals from the German delegates. On June 2, the Austrian delegates arrived and were presented with the allied terms four days afterwards.

The treaty was reluctantly signed by the German delegates on June 29, and the Turkish delegates were directed to return to their own country, as it was hopeless for them to expect to save their empire from dissolution in consequence of the frightful atrocities committed by their troops during the war. The Nations concerned in the treaties of peace and the dates on which they entered the war are as follows:—

Dates on which countries entered the war
Countries Date
Serbia July 28, 1914
Russia Aug 1, 1914
Belgium Aug 2, 1914
France Aug 3, 1914
Great Britain Aug 4, 1914
Montenegro Aug, 1914
Japan Aug 23, 1914
Italy May, 1915
Albania Jan, 1916
Portugal Mar, 1916
Rumania Aug, 1916
United State of America April 6, 1917
Cuba April 7, 1917
Panama April 10, 1917
Greece June 30, 1917
Siam July 22, 1917
Liberia Aug 8, 1917
China Aug 16, 1917
Brazil Oct 27, 1917
Guatemala April 24, 1918
Costa Rica April 27, 1918
Nicaragua May 8, 1918
Hayti July 15, 1918
Honduras July 19, 1918
Austria-Hungary July 28, 1914
Germany Aug 1, 1914
Turkey Nov, 1914
Bulgaria Oct, 1915

The treaty was divided into fifteen sections. The first contained the covenant of the League of Nations. The second described the new geographical frontiers of Germany. The third section, consisting of twelve clauses, bound the Germans to accept the political changes made by the treaty in Europe. It established two new States, Czecho-Slovakia and Poland it revised the basis of Belgian sovereignty and altered the boundaries of that country it set up new systems of government in Luxemburg and the basin of the river Saar. Alsace-Lorraine was restored to France. Germany was bound by it to recognize the independence of German-Austria and accept certain conditions respecting the new States created by the revolutionary movement in Russia. By the fourth section Germany abandoned her possessions and rights abroad. Her colonies were ceded to the Allies, together with certain rights obtained by various international conventions for regulating European influence in tropical Africa. The British Protectorate in Egypt was recognized, and the treaty of Algeciras annulled. The military, naval, and air conditions of peace were embodied in the fifth section, which limited the size of the German army and navy and abolished compulsory military service in Germany. The sixth section obliged all powers concerned to maintain the graves of soldiers who had died in the war and dealt with the release of prisoners. The seventh section dealt with responsibilities and punishment, and provided for the trial of the former German emperor. The eighth section stated the terms of reparation and restitution required from Germany. The ninth contained financial clauses relating to the previous section. The tenth dealt with economic conditions and renewed former political international treaties and conventions relating to the postal and telegraph services and sanitation. The eleventh section dealt with aerial navigation. The twelfth section contained clauses dealing with the international control of ports, canals, rivers and railways, with special provisions for the control of the Kiel Canal. The labour convention was embodied in the thirteenth section. Guarantees for the execution of the treaty were included in the fourteenth. The fifteenth contained a number of miscellaneous clauses, including the recognition of other subsequent treaties of peace and confirmed the decisions of prize courts. Its final clauses dealt with the ratification of the treaty and fixed a date for it to come into force.

Prussia was deprived of territory containing an area of 30,000 square miles and a population of 6,674,000, and the future fate of other Prussian territories, containing an area of 8,600 square miles and a population of 1,000,000, was to be determined by a plebiscite. The following disposition of the former German Colonies was adopted. German East Africa—the mandate will be held by Great Britain. German Southwest Africa—the mandate will be held by the Union of South Africa. The German Samoan Islands—the mandate will be held by New Zealand. Other Pacific possessions, those south of the equator (excluding the German Samoan Islands and Nauru)— the mandate will be held by Australia. Nauru—the mandate will be held by Great Britain. Pacific islands north of the equator—the mandate will be held by Japan. Togoland and Cameroon—France and Great Britain will make a joint recommendation as to their disposition.

The Toll of the War

The loss of human life resulting from the war was truly appalling. An official estimate of the total British casualties has been submitted to parliament. Those in the Royal Navy were as follows:—

Loss of human life resulting from the war, the Royal Navy
Killed Wounded Untraced missing
Officers Men Officers Men Officers Men
2,061 20,197 813 4,081 15 8

These figures do not include the casualties of the Royal Naval Division, but do include those of the Royal Naval Air Service to April 1, 1918, when it was transferred to the Royal Air Force.

Casualties among all military forces and in all theatres of war
  Killed Wounded
  Officers Other ranks Officers Other ranks
British 30,807 466,831 76,132 1,532,552
Colonials and Indians 7,602 168,703 17,125 421,402
Total 38,409 635,534 93,257 1,953,954
Total 673,943 2,047,211

Killed as per above table 673,943
Add deaths presumed through lapse of time    97,000
Missing, at present unaccounted for   64,800

Total presumed deaths including died from wounds and died from other causes 835,743

These figures include the losses of the Royal Naval Division and of the Royal Flying Corps up to April 1, 1918, making a grand total of casualties from all causes of 2,882,954.

The number of casualties in the Royal Air Force between April 1, 1918, and the date of the Armistice, was reported as follows:—

Casualties in the Royal Air Rorce
Killed Wounded Missing (including prisoners) Interned
Officers Other ranks Officers Other ranks Officers Other ranks Officers Other ranks
1,551 1,129 2,357 631 1,612 225 45 39

The casualties (including members of His Majesty's Forces) due to hostile air raids and bombardments were as follows:—

Killed:  1,570 Injured:  4,041

The French naval losses were officially reported as numbering 5,421 killed, 5,214 missing.

The French Army is reported to have lost 1,089,700 killed and 265,000 missing, or 16.2 per cent of the immense mobilized force of 8,410,000. No report of the number of wounded in the French Army or navy has been made public; the number of prisoners was officially stated as 446,300. Italian casualties as presented in an official statement to the reparation commissioners of the Peace Conference were as follows:—

Italian casualties
  Army Navy
Killed 462,391 3,169
Wounded 953,866 5,252

Half of the wounded men belonging to the army were stated to be permanently disabled; the total number rendered unfit for service was 4,385,487, which included 2,400,000 sick.

The Russian casualties were estimated to amount to 1,700,000 killed, 4,050,000 wounded, 2,500,000 prisoners, making a total of 9,150,000. The American losses were: dead, 53,169; wounded, 179,625; prisoners, 2,163; missing, 1,160; total, 236,117. German casualties were stated to amount to: dead, 1,600,000; missing, 103,000; prisoners, 618,000; wounded, 4,064,000; total, 6,385,000.

The Austrian losses in killed and wounded were stated to amount to 4,000,000, of whom 800,000 were killed. Official reports of the losses of other nations have not been made public.

The material losses of the countries involved practically defy computation. A statement, presented for the information of the Budget Committee of the French Chamber of Deputies, shows that the loss suffered by that country amounted to a total of 119,801,000,000 francs, made up as follows:—Damages to landed property, 35,446,000,000 f.; loss of household effects, material, cattle, securities, etc., 32,352,000,000 f.; raw materials and provisions, 28,861,000,000 f.; loss to revenue or trade, 23,242,000,000 f.