On 31st October 1917, news was received by 5th Suffolk in the front line trenches around Gaza that the nearby town or Beersheba had been taken.
Its capture, brought the next phase of operations in the Middle East closer to the Battalion. The preceding two weeks had been spent on much training and retraining, so that by the end of the month, all knew that another big attack was close at hand. "We were busy rehearsing the attack" wrote Captain Wolton, "preparing cover at the jumping off point, and improving communications. Frequent reconnoitring parties went out, and one ran into a large enemy patrol which was lying in wait in a widely extended crescent formation. Our party got within the semicircle before the patrol was discovered and came under fire from three sides. The were obliged to withdraw with the loss of two killed and one wounded".
For Wolton and his men, the sheer number of order arriving at Battalion HQ became unbearable. He continues: "The number of instructions and signals all ranks had to assimilate with regard to artillery, machine gun fire, tanks, aeroplanes, neighbouring and supporting units , and occupying of enemy positions, seemed to be reaching alarming proportions. But by the time fixed for the attack most of them had been learned, and we felt confident keeping touch and communication".
For the men, the training and re-training continued. Lewis gunners continually rehearsed their drills with such speed and accuracy that no orders of command needed to be given. The Adjutant was busy setting up his line of communications to the artillery and the runners were busy tending to a pair of mothy horses that had been procured from Brigade to speed up the relay of messages between the front line (when it advanced) and Battalion HQ, though large quantities of telephone wire had recently arrived, to be coiled out to the new frontal positions when they were taken.
Late on the 31st as news of Beersheba's capture came through, the Battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Wollaston, received the first batch of 'mosaics' - the photographic overlays of the ground his men were to cover and the positions they were to overcome in the forthcoming attack. Time was running out for 'Johnny Turk'.
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.