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Photographs supplied by Graeme Saunders

The monument erected by the by the Rotary Club of Montrose and District commemorates former Montrose resident Major Charles Morris who ordered the first shot to be fired in World War One.  Funding for the plaque was received through the ANZAC Centenary Grants Program.

Major Charles Morris served at the Fort situated at Point Nepean Heads.  On the morning of 5 August 1914, Major Morris ordered a warning shot be fired across the bow of German steamer, the Pfalz. This shot, having occurred just hours after war was declared in Europe, is acknowledged as the first shot fired in the First World War.


Address:Mount Dandenong Tourist & Swansea Roads, Montrose War Memorial , Montrose, 3765
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -37.810262
Long: 145.343595
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:People
Actual Event Start Date:05-August-1914
Actual Event End Date:05-August-1914


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Tuesday 5th August, 2014
Front Inscription

Major Charles Morris (1856 - 1935)

Charles Morris was born in England in 1856 and in his youth served in the Scots Guards.  In 1885 he immigrated to Victoria where he enlisted to serve with the Permanent Artillery Batteries in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.  In 1914 he was promoted to Lieutenant and appointed the fire commander at Fort Nepean.

On the morning of August 5th, 1914, a German steamer, the "Pfalz", attempted to escape being captured and tried to flee through Port Phillip Heads.  At 12.20pm Lieutenant Morris received orders to stop the ship from proceeding any further. They signalled to the "Pfalz" to stop but it kept moving forward.

As no official word had been reached as to whether any declaration of war had begun, Lieutenant Morris asked for further authority to stop the ship.  Soon after permission was granted from the Minister of Defence to fire on the ship as necessary and as a result Lieutenant Morris ordered a shot to be fired across the bow of the ship as a warning.  Soon after the "Pfalz" surrendered.

As a state of war had only existed between Britain and Germany for an hour or so at that stage, and it was not even dawn in Europe then, the shot ordered by Charles Morris on this morning is claimed to be the first shot to be fired by the British forces in the First World War.  It was also the only shot fired within Australia throughout the war, which is claimed as an act of war.

Charles Morris was later promoted to Major and served as the commanding officer of the 54th Siege Battery, AIF, on the Western Front during the war.  He was severely wounded in action in 1917 and invalided home.  In 1928 he retired to Browns Road, Montrose where he lived with his family until his passing in 1935.

This is a "Centenary of ANZAC" project by the Rotary Club of Montrose.

Source: MA,DVA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au