James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants
See Mesopotamia map for reference

Taking up positions

The intense heat and the fact that the river on one side and marsh on the other necessitated a frontal assault prompted General Gorringe at 12.30 pm to postpone a proposed attack on Fallahiya until nightfall. How Gurth and his comrades must have suffered during the heat of the day, pinned down as they were without shelter. It was not until about 7 pm that 38th and 39th Brigades passed through them and they were able to withdraw, moving into bivouacs by the river at 10.30 p.m., in reserve. That day the Battalion’s losses were three officers killed and seven wounded, eight ORs killed and one hundred and fifty wounded; the Brigade’s strength had fallen from 122 officers and 2782 ORs to 82 officers and 2077 ORs.

The Division advanced towards Sannaiyat. Limited food supplies injected greater urgency into proceedings but the weather again intervened; high water levels – the Tigris was at its highest level that year – and a wind change caused flooding in the trenches, delaying the attack on this stronghold for several days. Eventually it was scheduled for the morning of 9 April 1916. Gurth’s brotherbrother Gethin was in the same theatre of war and it is understood that on the evening of 8 April the two brothers had a chance meeting, just before the whole Division was massed about 600 yards in front of the Turkish trenches at Sannaiyat, ready to attack at dawn. Gethin stroked his brother's cheek and Gurth said, "Hello Geth old man"; it would be the last time they met.

Each man carried 200 rounds of ammunition. C.T. Atkinson in his History of the South Wales Borderers wrote: The troops moved off about 7 p.m. to get into position and after a march of two and a half miles lined up about 600 yards from the Turkish trenches. It was bitterly cold, the men were in khaki-drill and had no greatcoats, while the meat ration had not been issued in time to be eaten before the 4th moved off. Most men slept during the long wait that preceded the attack – the 4th put it as six hours – but when roused for the assault everyone was stiff with cold, many indeed being quite benumbed and confused. Losses in officers and N.C.O.’s in the previous attack had been heavy, and the recently joined drafts mostly lacked experience and training. The Brigade was formed up in lines of Battalions, each Battalion being in four lines, fifty yards apart (See diagram). By 3 am all had moved silently into position. It was a clear night. Bright moonlight played on the battlefield but very little gunfire disturbed the silence as the troops waited for the hour before dawn.