Today is the 11th of November and on this day we observe Remembrance Day and honour members of the armed forces who died in the line of duty. Remembrance Day is observed on this day to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918; hostilities formally with the signing of the Armistice.

Wars come at a cost and a burden, which reverberates for many years in the war zones and among the participants. It is not only painful for millions but comes at an economic cost as well.

Human Cost

The casualty counts for World Wars I and II are estimated at about 70 million. During World War 2 the UK, German and French casualty counts were 0.4m, 7m and 0.8 million respectively. In aggregate, this amounted to 5.2% of the population of these countries (UK-0.8%, Germany –10% and France – 1.9%).

To put these in context, 5.2% casualty rate at current population levels, will have amounted today to a combined human loss of 10.9 million. This is equivalent to almost twice the population of Denmark; greater than the entire population of Bulgaria, larger than the London population of 7.83 million and 99% of the current population of Belgium.

From the UK perspective, given a UK GDP per capita in 2010 of £22,729 (OECD) and a projected human loss of 894,000 at current population levels; this will shrink combined per capita income by £20 billion.

Financial Cost

In addition to the human costs of war, the financial costs can be enormous. In World War II alone, the UK, Germany and France expended a combined total of $373 billion, which in 2010 money terms amounts to a mammoth €3.3 trillion. This is enough to cover the combined debts of Portugal, Greece Ireland, Spain and Italy (Eurozone debts as at 2010 – sourced from the IMF), or pay for the proposed expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).

Despite the huge financial loss, this is insignificant compared to the colossal and tragic human cost.

And perhaps turn to the words of Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them