Skip to comments.First WWI shot remembered a century on
Posted on 08/02/2014 10:13:28 PM PDT by naturalman1975
THE first shot fired by the British Empire in World War I wasn't on the battlefields of Europe - it came from a windswept fort south of Melbourne, half a world away.
THAT moment - 100 years ago on Tuesday - will be marked with a ceremony at the former military base where a 24-year-old Australian soldier fired on the German merchant ship, SS Pfalz, which was attempting to flee Melbourne less than four hours after hostilities began. The ceremony is one of a national series of events marking the centenary of World War I.
John Purdue, a sergeant with the army's Royal Australian Garrison Artillery, was stationed at Fort Nepean at the tip of the Mornington Peninsula.
At 12.45pm on August 5, 1914, he was ordered to fire on the Pfalz to stop it from escaping Port Phillip Bay to the open sea.
The ship, which was carrying German consular officials and contraband, was captured and used as an Australian troop ship throughout the war.
Its crew was interned as prisoners of war.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.com.au ...
But what makes it interesting is that the same gun at the same Fort (albeit with a different barrel) also has a legitimate, though less straightforward claim, to have fired the first British Empire shot of the Second World War.
Half an hour after war was declared on 3rd September 1939, the same gun fired a warning shot at a ship that failed to identify itself. It turned out that ship was an Australian freighter, the SS Wooranna.
It can't be certain it was the first British Empire shot of the Second World War, because some planes of the Royal Air Force could have also been in position to have engaged the enemy by that time. It is however a reasonable claim.
What makes the claims even more extraordinary is that these two shots were the only shots Fort Nepean ever fired in anger.
I intend to be there for the commemoration on Tuesday.
Sorry, the Australian ship in World War II was the SS Woniora. I don’t know why I typed Wooranna.
Ummm, I’m not sure a gun accidentally fired at a friendly ship can count as the gun “to have fired the first British Empire shot of the Second World War.”
Remember - it had been common practice in World War I, and would be common practice in World War II, for merchant vessels to serve as auxiliary warships, and sometimes to engage in deliberate acts of misinformation and misdirection in order to wage war. Australia would actually suffer its worse naval loss of the war about two years later when a German merchant raider, the Kormoran, would succeed in getting too close under false colours, to HMAS Sydney, and sink her with all hands. Identifying the nationality of a ship in a time of war is not an accident, but a military action, and is considered such.