Colin BARTON
Rank: Private
Number: 291871
Unit: 1/7th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 6 November 1917
Age: 28
Cemetery: Beersheba War Cemetery, Israel

Colin was born in Hyde in 1890, the son of a cotton spinner, Reginald Barton and Mary Barton. The 1901 Census shows the family living at 129 Montague Street, Compstall. Then aged 10, he was the fourth of the five children.

In later life, he would come to work for the Co-operative Society at its Marple shop and, on 14 November 1915, he married his fiancée, Harriett Fletcher, at the Methodist Church. They set up home at 7 Queen Street. The following month, Colin enlisted into the army. His service papers still exist at the National Archives and they show him to have stood 5' 6" - about average height for those day. He was not immediately needed and was posted to the reserve and returned to Marple. It was to be only a brief return to civilian life and, on 19 February 1916, he was mobilised for training with the 7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. On 15 May, he was punished by being confined to barracks for three days for coming on  parade without a rifle. At the end of his training period, he was transferred to the Welsh Fusiliers, on 13 July ,and left Britain to join the Battalion in Palestine.

There had been heavy fighting around Gaza in the spring of 1917 but the summer and early autumn had seen a quiet period. There would be another attempt to take Gaza but Colin and his mates would engage the Turkish army near the town of Beersheba, hopefully pinning them down and preventing a movement of troops westwards. They left camp at Belah on 20 October and, by 2 November, were amongst a large force of British troops near Tel Khuwelfeh. Scouts established that large numbers of Turkish forces were also massing nearby and it was clear a major engagement would take place.

Preparations were made to deploy the troops and scouts were regularly sent out to try to assess Turkish strength and positions. "Zero hour" was fixed for 4.20 am and, in this sector, three battalions would attack, with the Brigade's fourth in reserve. Colin and his mates would assault the "Tel" itself, considered to be the key to the operation.

The Battalion formed up in five lines. Every man had been issued with two water bottles, 170 rounds of ammunition and rations for a day. The Colonel had issued strict orders that the fighting would be by bayonet and no rifles were to be fired. Just as the men attacked a thick mist came down which caused some confusion amongst the attacking units and mean they couldn't keep to the correct direction. The 7th Battalion's right flank was exposed making the advance was even more hazardous. The later report on the attack records "The enemy also took advantage of the mist to attempt several counter attacks, these were however repulsed, the Tel being kept clear of the enemy by rifle, bayonet and bomb." Presumably the order not to fire rifles had been ignored or rescinded.

"At about 9.00am a Turkish counter attack momentarily forced our men to retire from the Tel, but they immediately reformed and retook it at the point of the bayonet. During this time we had suffered a considerable number of casualties in officers and the Companies on the Tel were now under the direction of Capt Evans, M.C. who set himself to organise and consolidate his position. Heavy artillery and machine gun fire went on all through the morning and it was evident that the enemy had by no means given up hope of recapturing the position. At 15.00 the enemy artillery was intensified; a heavy barrage was put up between the Tel and Battalion HQ as also between the latter and Brigade HQ, the object evidently being to interrupt all communication with the Tel and simultaneously the enemy massed troops behind the crest for a counter attack. Our artillery however and machine guns put in an intense counter barrage and effectively dispersed the enemy with heavy losses." The situation eased from this point on and the Battalion maintained its hold on the Tel until relieved at dusk. They had lost 69 killed, 157 wounded and of another 7 there was no news.

   
           
   
     
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