James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
See Mesopotamia map for reference

Egypt and Mesopotamia

In January 1916 Gurth was ordered to join the 4th S Wales Borderers in Egypt where, briefly, the battalion was recovering following evacuation from Gallipoli; his brother Gethin arrived at Sidi Bishr in February. Activities included a competition on 12 February for musketry and endurance - a two-mile march across sand in full order, immediately followed by a shooting competition - for which teams from the brigade's companies had trained for ten days. Everyone would have been involved, participating or cheering their team on. It kept the men’s spirits up while they waited to transfer to Mesopotamia. The Borderers had suffered heavy losses in Gallipoli and many of the men were newly drafted, inexperienced and under-trained recruits.

On 14 February, Gurth sailed from Port Said in H.T. Oriana, which anchored off Kuwait for three days. Then, in the Ellora, the troops proceeded up the Shatt al Arab to Basra, which they reached by March. Heavy storms and flooding prevented disembarkation then several days were spent cleaning up the camp beside the Tigris and unloading supplies which, due to a mix up, they had to move, together with their firewood, half a mile down-stream in torrential rain. On 12 March, they proceeded up-stream to Amarah in a river steamer with two barges lashed to either side, thence to Sheikh Saad in a P19. Gurth wrote home:

My dearest Mother,
I hope you got my last letters, though it is generally a toss up when you will. We have been taking some time getting here as there are slight difficulties as regards river transport occasionally. However in a day or two we should reach our destination. It has been quite an interesting tour, a country one would never in one’s ordinary life visit. But very interesting in many ways. Gethin went on in advance with part of the staff. I have not seen him since leaving Basra. I, and all of us were delighted at his getting the D.S.O.
I have been remarkably fit taking all things together and have had no ill effects from the heat except for a day or so, when I had the “trots”. It has been quite cool lately which has kept the mosquitoes quiet. Some of these Arab tribes are very curious in various ways. I hope you are all well at home & that’s Havens is his old self again. I suppose Hugh will be back soon.
Well, I cannot think of anything else just now. I will write again very shortly. Best love to all,

Your loving Son, Gurth.