"Tanks were also advancing. These had silencers and moved very quietly over the sand. But either the tanks or the troops had been seen over on the skyline at Sampson's Ridge, and a heavy shrapnel fire was opened on them causing many casualties".
Just after 3.00am on the 2nd November 1917, the men of 5th Suffolk advanced from their forward positions towards the Turkish front line opposite them at El Arish Redoubt. In the darkness, the Turks opened up on the shapes looming up from them through the blackness, but luckily their fire was wild and mainly inaccurate.
Behind a tank, the Battalion continued its advance. The Allied artillery was pounding the Turkish front line as the men moved forward and soon they were at the Turkish wire, which had thankfully, been completely destroyed by the artillery. The barrage continued, moving slowly forward and as the men reached the wire, it had carried onwards and was now pounding the enemy's front line trenches. "So steady and accurate was it that several sections pushed on right up to the wire. The barrage lifted and the line dashed forward, meeting with little resistance" wrote Captain Wolton.
As the men dashed in over the sandbagged parapet into the Redoubt, small pockets of resistance held out in the inner citadel. One small party of Turks on the right flank, mortally wounded Captain Rowley who was gallantly leading his men forward. First into the trench, he met the brunt of the enemy's initial, deadly fire. Captain Catchpole advancing on the left, met a similar fate. Both men were carried away but died the following day.
"The second line was captured and likewise the third, but having no support on the flanks the troops were withdrawn to the second and proceeded to consolidate it. The Turk seemed thoroughly surprised and during the morning opened very little fire on the trenches or no mans land." The men now dug-in feverously and made good their new positions as daylight came. The Battalion the left had not been so successful. They had met 'serious' opposition. The Battalion following the Battalion, soon passed through them into the enemy's second line, and pressed onto the third, but they lost direction and became mixed up in the Redoubt.
By 6.oo am, Lieutenant-Colonel Wollaston, moved Battalion Headquarters forward into the Redoubt and went round to every position to asses the situation. He "reorganised the different sectors and fragments of Battalions, and reported the situation in the sector as very good".
A decisive success for 1/5th Suffolk and a turning point in third Battle of Gaza.
Welcome to our online 'blog' charting the history of the many Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment and the part they played in the Great War.
Starting back in March 2014, we have recorded the events of 100 years ago on the centenary of their happening.
Keep checking back to see how the Great War is progressing for the men of the Suffolk Regiment.