First British Shots of WW1

First British Shots of WW1

The first shot from a British soldier in World War One was fired on 22nd August 1914 in the village of Casteau, Belgium.

Cavalry reconnaissance patrols had been sent out ahead of the British Expeditionary Force the previous day to investigate claims that the Germans were advancing towards them.

Around 120 men from the C squad of the 4th Dragoon Guards were part of this reconnaissance, but they were soon split into four groups of 30 men.

At 06:30 the following morning, the squad was informed that four German cavalrymen had been seen further ahead on the road to Brussels. Second-in-command Captain Charles Hornby was given permission by Major Tom Bridges to set out with the 1st Troop to pursue the men in the form of a traditional cavalry charge.

The Germans were soon caught in the main road to Casteau, northwest of Mons, and a fight took place. It was here that Drummer E Thomas fired the first shot by a British soldier in World War One, despite much of the fight using just swords and lances.

A view of modern day Casteau

Thankfully, there were no British casualties during the fight and Horby and his men returned with three German prisoners of war. However, they were described by the British medic for the 4th Dragoon Guards as “German plough boys as they were not the fearsome soldiers they had expected. Instead, they were simply conscripts who had been quickly pushed to the front line with very little training.

Despite this, Hornby received the following message upon the Troop’s return:


“The Brigadier desires to congratulate the 4th Dragoon Guards on the spirited action of the troops on reconnaissance which resulted in establishing the moral superiority of our cavalry from the first over the German cavalry.” Cavalry Division HQ memo, 22/08/14

MLA Citation/Reference

"First British Shots of WW1". HistoryLearning.com. 2019. Web.