Antedatings of "friendly fire"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 11 07:50:09 UTC 2014

"friendly fire" n. (OED: 1918)
"friendly" adj. (OED 2f: 1903)

Here's two "friendly fire" antedatings, one also antedates the military


First, the captain is concerned the proposed gun invention is too close to
their own defensive brushwood barricade (abbatis) and will be destroyed by
their own gun's fire.

1867 June 3, Captain Jasper Selwyn R.N., “Further Particulars Regarding
Moncrieff's Protected Barbette System”, Journal of the Royal United Service
Institution, volume XI, number XLIV, page 256:

It is clear that the firing of very heavy guns, or the enemy's fire in
return, would very seriously interfere with an abbatis, or anything of that
kind, and it will only be something of the lightest character, or something
that is placed at a considerable distance from the friendly fire, the fire
of the gun itself, that would remain.


And a 1910 about firing on one's own soldiers in a review of a book about
the Franco-German war (1870 – 1871).

May-June 1910, P.E.T., “The Franco-German War”, Journal of the Military
Service Institution of the United States, volume XLVI, number CLXV, page

The slaughter of one's own troops by being fired into by their friends in
rear. We are very much concerned over the question of avoiding loss from
the enemy's bullets while passing through the danger zone, but what have we
done to avoid our bravest fellows, the survival of the fittest, those who
have gotten to the front and have held on to hard-won positions—what have
we done to avoid their being shot to pieces by friendly fire? Absolutely
nothing that we have ever heard of—and yet this is one of the most serious
problems that confronts the leader of troops. Courage before the enemy will
quail before a fire from the rear.



The American Dialect Society -

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