James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
See Mesopotamia map for reference

Delays and discomfort

That letter may have been the last that Gurth wrote home and it spared his parents the details of what was an appalling journey; the barges offered no shelter from sun or rain, the men getting drenched by a violent squaal soon after the start, while the strong current slowed their progress. Conditions were cramped, with one short stop for stretching legs the evening before arrival at Sheikh Saad where, once again, supplies had to be unloaded; these included some horses and many mules. The heavy rain and storms barely abated and some time was spent repairing the banks of the river and trying to prevent further flooding. Training filled the rest of March, in preparation for a major offensive.

As soon as the Brigade left Sheikh Saad at 08.30, on 31 March, marching across difficult terrain, a huge thunderstorm started. The transport mules bolted in all directions, disposing their loads, and the torrential rain in the dark made it even more difficult to see the deep ditches that criss-crossed the land; men and mules went floundering headlong into them. The mules and wheeled vehicles, including guns, had to turn back, to be brought up in daylight. Conditions were so bad that it took the men over four hours to cover the last three miles. They arrived, exhausted, at Orah at 05.50 on 1 April to find there were not enough tents; some shared with another Division and others bivouacked. Decisions had to be made as to how to allocate the limited transport resources, hampered by the weather, between supplying provisions, transporting men and supplying ordnance, ammunition, medical supplies and the other prerequisites of warfare. An added problem was the inexperience of many of the officers and men of 13th Division following its losses in the Dardanelles.

Delays led to the postponement of an attack on Hanna, resulting in the 4th S Wales Borderers spending two uncomfortable days in the trenches waiting for the ground to dry. The men had no blankets, only their waterproof sheets, and no firewood for cooking; drinking water could only be drawn from a point covered by the Turkish guns. With an improvement in conditions, the attack was rescheduled for 5 April.