Date : May 11, 1745
the history :
These words are attributed to the Comte d'Anterroche
during the battle of Fontenoy
, during the reign of Louis XV
The battle opposed French-Irish troops, led by the Marshall of Sachsen
, to the English
n troops, led by the duke of Cumberland
. More than 130,000 men fought in the battle, for the conquest of the city of Tournai
and of Flanders
( now both in Belgium
According to Voltaire
(Louis XV's century
), during the advance of English infantry
, the English officers saluted their French peers and captain Charles Hay shouted : "Messieurs des Gardes françaises, tirez !
" ("gentlemen of the French guard, shoot !"). The comte d'Anterroche, lieutenant, presumedly answered : "Messieurs, nous ne tirons jamais les premiers, tirez vous-mêmes !
" ("Gentlemen, we never shoot first, do shoot !").
Despite the appearances, this dialogue has nothing to do with courtesy or politeness. A rule of infantry warfare
forbade a troop to shoot first in a close combat
, because then it would be disarmed in front of enemy fire
, reloading weapons being very long at that time.
After losing the battle in the first time, the French troops won it, losing 7000 men, while the English lost 15000. Soon after Flanders fell in French hands.