Gun That Fired First Shot of WWI for Brits Goes On Display


By Sara Tipton

The gun that fired the first round for the British Army in WWI has arrived in Melbourne, Australia as the newest part of an exhibit intended to commemorate the century old war. The gun was fired by the British Army on the Western Front effectively engaging the British in the Great War. The Imperial War Museums in Britain is loaning the ‘one-tonne’ Royal Horse Artillery Gun to Melbourne Museum as a centerpiece for a WWI Centenary exhibition, which opens on April 18. The exhibition will also include photographs, artwork, and documentation from the war, as well as 350 other unique pieces . . .

The 13 lb. gun has never left Europe until now, but a shell was fired from this gun in Belgium in 1964 for the first time since the end of the War to End All Wars.

At just under four meters long, the gun has a range of up to 5.4 kilometres. It is said to have fired more than one and a half million rounds on the Western Front alone and took nine gunners to operate while capable of firing eight rounds a minute.

Nora Ni Dhomhnaill, the conservator for Imperial War Museums said that this gun was used throughout the four-year long war. It was used in many battles, including the Somme, Le Cateau, Arras and Cambrai. It was also used during both Ypres campaigns. As the war came to a close in 1914, it was used by the British to facilitate both the fifth army’s retreat and the advance in Germany.

Nora Ni Dhomhnaill says this exhibit is instrumental to Australian culture, as the war happened during the time that Australia was attempting to define their national identity.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

“We still feel the relevance of the war today, from the formation of new nations to the continued rise of women in society,” she said. “The war created huge social change and from an Australian perspective, it was a pivotal moment in the country’s history.”

Ni Dhomhnaill also said the even though the war ended 97 years ago, families across Australia still feel it’s impact and others continue to find items related to the war, so new research is constantly and consistently being updated. She also claims the exhibition is helping families make connections to their past.

“Museums are collecting things all the time. It didn’t just end in 1918, there were ongoing consequences and it’s all very interconnected with how it impacted the world. I hope it’s personal and emotional for people,” she said.

The WWI Centenary Exhibition will be ongoing at the Melbourne Museum until October.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


  1. avatar actionphysicalman says:

    Maybe wrong word in title?

  2. avatar Mk10108 says:

    In the evolution of warfare, it’s hard to get ones mind around a 1.5 MILLION shells fired from a single armament. Or the lack of leadership to resolve disagreements leading to the death of millions.

    1. avatar JWM says:

      If , indeed, that gun fired 1.5 million rounds then the only originol part on it was the serial number by wars end.

      A 13 pounder would have been next to useless on the western front once the trenchlines and fortifications were established. Maybe it was put on a high angle mount and used as an ack-ack gun.

  3. avatar James says:

    WWI is incredibly under appreciated in the United States for the changes it ushered in for the world. Not only was it the first modern war, it set the table for almost everything that has happened since. It is a really amazing, spine chilling, and impactful event.

    1. avatar actionphysicalman says:

      Agreed. It is the war that most sends chills up my spine when I think about it. It about defines ‘tragedy’.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        It was a double-whammy, with the 1918 flu pandemic immediately following the war killing 50-100 million additional people.

    2. avatar AllAmerican says:

      Agreed. I often like to think about how different the world would be now if the Ottoman Empire had lived on. The middle east would be quite stable, and probably rather pleasant. And we’d know nothing of the problems we’ve been dealing with for the past 40 years.

  4. avatar Dr. No says:

    Typo much?

  5. avatar AllAmerican says:

    “As the war came to a close in 1914,” 1918 🙂

    1. avatar actionphysicalman says:

      By Christmas 1914!

    2. avatar Another Robert says:

      Some people might say 1945…

  6. avatar scott says:

    i wonder if that gun is “deactivated”….i know there that there are l lot of guns in britian that used to be working, but had to get “deactivated”.

  7. avatar Mike says:

    When I read the title, I was thinking it would be Gravilo Princip’s pistol

  8. avatar Joseph Quixote says:

    One of the many tragedies of the first world war was the fact that Europe’s belief in itself was shattered, leading to the ultranationalist and ultra violent regimes that followed. Europe today doubts everything. There is no right from wrong and everything is solved by “experts.” Unfortunately we in America are following them way to rapidly.

  9. avatar P.M.Lawrence says:

    The gun that fired the first round for the British Army in WWI has arrived in Melbourne, Australia as the newest part of an exhibit intended to commemorate the century old war. The gun was fired by the British Army on the Western Front effectively engaging the British in the Great War.

    No. The first (comparatively) big gun fired, maybe, but the first British guns fired were used by native infantry against German colonial troops in West Africa.

  10. avatar Former Water Walker says:

    Very sad. I had 2 uncles who went to France. Both got influenza and both nearly died. America had no reason to be there…like most of our foreign adventures.

  11. avatar Mike W. says:

    It’s a REAL shame in Australia that war trophies have been DESTROYED after the order to turn in most guns for a pittance of money.

  12. avatar Desert Ranger says:

    Nice article. Well written and enjoyable.

  13. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Suggested reading:
    “A Rifleman Went to War” and “The Emma Gees” by Herbert Wes McBride – an American rifleman who enlisted in the Canadian Army at the start of WWI, served as a sniper, sniper instructor, and led a machine gun section (the “emma gees”.

    Told by one who was there for the whole thing.

    by Herbert Wes McBride

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