James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
See Mesopotamia map for reference

Before the Battle of Sannaiyat

On the evening of 4 April, final preparations were made for the next morning's attack on the enemy's positions along the so-called Hanna Lines, close to Orah, and the men of the Borderers took up their position on the left bank of the Tigris, about 150 yards from the enemy trenches, the Division occupying a front about 1300 yards long. The Borderers were to advance in two lines and lie down in front of the first Turkish trench, which would be taken by two other battalions. When safe to advance they were to move forward, lie down in front of the second Turkish trench. An Artillery bombardment of the enemy’s third line started a few minutes after the initial attack began at 04.55, twenty minutes before sunrise, and was due to finish before the infantry advanced on the third Turkish trench. In the event the enemy had virtually evacuated the front lines – the few Turkish prisoners taken said this had been due to flooding - so the advance proceeded far more quickly than anticipated. Cheering signalled reaching the second line but the Artillery neither heard it nor saw the signal to this effect in the dim light and the bombardment continued for over half an hour, delaying the capture of the third line. The Battalion then advanced 3 miles in lines of platoons.

Word came through that the Turks were massing at Fallahiya, and General Maude sent General Lewis’s 40th Brigade to secure a line some 2000 yards from this Turkish position. As part of the Brigade, the 4th South Wales Borderers advanced across open ground in skirmish order and even when the Turks opened up with machine and rifle fire at 1200 yards, according to the Battalion Diary, the troops advanced with perfect steadiness. However, with no protection from the incessant machine gun fire, the troops could not advance without strong support and could not withdraw without heavy losses. At 700 yards the order was given to dig in and entrench which they did. The whole Brigade had pushed forward despite gradually increasing machine gun and rifle fire but had occupied a line about 700 yards in front of that which had been intended. They were suffering heavy casualties but General Gorringe had to keep the pressure on the Turks, who might, at any time, cut the river bunds, allowing the ever-rising River Tigris to flood the area in front of their trenches. At 10.30 he ordered 38th and 39th Infantry Brigades and 19th Battery RFA to advance to support 40th Infantry Brigade but they too came under such heavy fire that they were forced to dig in some 300 yards behind 40th Brigade’s position. Each man had 220 rounds of ammunition, 2 Mills grenades, 3 sandbags, a pick or shovel and 2 days’ rations besides their usual equipment.