Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

The story behind the first British shots of WW1

Corporal Thomas was in the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards. Photo: ITV News

As Europe prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One, ITV News helped retrace the steps of a man who back in 1914 found himself at the centre of a significant moment in history.

Corporal Edward Thomas of the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards fired the first British shot of a conflict that would claim 16 million lives before it was over.

An ITV News team accompanied Paul Thomas, great grandson of Corporal Thomas, to the little village outside the Belgian city of Mons where this first skirmish took place.

Paul Thomas was guided by a personal account of the famous incident written by his great grandfather before his death.

It told how cavalryman Corporal Thomas had been ordered to dismount when his troop encountered German cavalry in woodland at Casteau on August 22 1914.

Corporal Thomas survived the war and raised a family. Credit: ITV News

He returned his cavalry sword to its scabbard and following orders picked up a rifle, taking aim at a German officer who was organising his own men into firing positions.

It is recorded that the officer fell wounded from his horse.It's not known if he was killed.

It was an emotional moment for Paul Thomas as, for the first time, he saw the monument that remembers that dramatic encounter at the very spot where his great-grandfather dismounted.

Paul Thomas looks at a monument to the skirmish in which his great-grandfather took part. Credit: ITV News

I never met my great grandfather but I am told he was always reluctant to talk about what happened here. He didn't think it was something to be celebrated. I believe he was deeply affected by all the death and suffering he witnessed in the years that followed.

– Paul Thomas

More on this story