Sergeant F Spanton

Sergeant Spanton served in B Squadron and was captured by the Turks at Lajj in Mesopotamia. His account of the battle at Lajj on 5th Mar 1917 includes this: "After a few minutes we were galloping towards the enemy with drawn swords, at a fair pace. We were well received by the Turks, who blazed away at us as hard as they could, and when we got close some of their shots took effect, and one or two spare horses were galloping about. After we had crossed the first trench my horse was apparently hit and pitched over, causing me to be thrown. I landed between the lines of the Turks, and remained quiet, waiting to see what would happen next. The Turks had now turned about, and were firing over me into the rear of the squadrons. The regiment changed direction to the right, and passed out of my view; the Turks got out of the trenches and continued to send a hail of bullets after the disappearing squadrons. I watched this as I lay on the ground, weighing my chances of rejoining the regiment. The Turks in front of me were now retiring, and moving to the left of the trench, and I thought if I remained quiet they would all probably pass me by unnoticed, and then I could get back to my squadron again. But no such luck: as the tail-end of the Turks passed by, one fellow stopped when he saw me, and raising his rifle to his shoulder he fired point blank - but missed - the bullet not coming so near as the one that had cut the belt of my haversack in half a few minutes before. This man, evidently disgusted with his bad shooting, walked hurriedly away, so once again I thought my chances of getting back were good; but a group of three men coming along a little later came to see who I was, and lugged me off to a dug-out. I had hurt my knee rather badly when I was thrown, and couldn't get along over fast; this annoyed the Turks, as we were still under a heavy fire from the British machine-guns, so they jabbed me in the back with the butt of a rifle as a signal to hurry."

He met other prisoners from the 13th, Sgt Gilbert and Lt Pennington who was wounded in the wrist and treated by Spanton. Pte Morrison was also there, wounded in the arm. The Turks took their uniforms and possessions off them and they were interviewed. Spanton gives a description of life as a prisoner and how the British and Indians were mistreated in captivity which makes painful reading.

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by Stephen Luscombe