Luttange: The First British Army Casualty of WW2


The small village of Luttlange in Eastern France, is well off the tourist trail. War swept across it three times in less than a century and at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the area was protected by a section of the main Maginot Line British troops came to Luttange during the so-called ‘Phoney War’ and patrolled sections of the Franco-German border and even occupied sections of the Maginot Line itself.

On the night of 9th December 1939 a British patrol from the 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry  ventured into ground in which other units had laid booby-traps. An official report noted:

” Report received of first casualties (1 killed 4 wounded) of 3 Infantry Brigade on the SAAR Front-this had been caused by a patrol leader losing his way in the dark and walking into one of our own booby traps. The ambush party unfortunately fired into the ensuing melee.”

The fatal casualty was Corporal Thomas William Priday. A pre-war regular soldier who had been mobilised in September 1939, Priday was the son of Allen L. Priday and Elisabeth A. Priday, of Redmarley, Gloucestershire.

Thomas William Priday (IWM Exhibition)
             Thomas William Priday 

While others had died in the British Expeditionary Force prior to December 1939, none had been in action on a patrol facing the enemy and Thomas William Priday therefore became the first fatal British Army battle casualty of the Second World War.



  1. FiveBlenheims of No. 107 took part in the RAF’s first bombing raid of the war against enemy ships in the German port of Wilhelmshaven on 4 September 1939, the day after war was declared on Germany, along with No. 110 Squadron. The raid was not a success: of the five aircraft despatched only one returned – and with its bomb load still intact as it had not been able to locate the enemy. One of shoot down Blenheims (N6189), flown by F/O Herbert Lightoller, crashed into cruiser Emden, causing slight damage, killing 11 crewmen and injuring around 30. These were among the first casualties of the German fleet during the war. The first British prisoner of war in World War II was Sergeant George Booth, a navigator with 107 Squadron. He was captured when his Bristol Blenheim was shot down over the German coast on that 4 September 1939.

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