The small village of Luttange 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 Inf Bde 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.” (WW2 Talk)
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.
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.