Why 966?

I’ve been asked many times why 966? Well, let me tell you a story . . . It begins in 1915, when three brothers join their eldest sibling in the 5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. On the 19 July 1915, with the war raging in France, the four brothers board a troop ship at Devonport, bound for the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey). Around three weeks later, they waded ashore at Suvla Bay. It was an operation intended to support a breakout from the ANZAC sector, five miles to the south. However, mismanaged from the outset, what followed was a drawn-out conflict in oft harrowing conditions that were a match for any to be found on the Western Front.

Having survived the oppressive summer heat, flies, and lack of sanitation, November brought heavy rain and toward the end of the month, a major
storm flooded trenches up to 4 feet deep. There followed a blizzard and two
nights of heavy frost. 220 men drowned or froze to death and there were 12,000 cases of frostbite or exposure.

Two weeks later, the troops began the evacuation of Suvla Bay — just 15% of the division remained; miraculously their number included all four brothers.

Having sailed down to Egypt, and suitably reinforced, the 53rd (Welsh) Division along with the 161st (Essex) Brigade of the 54th (East Anglian) Division, bore the brunt of the First Battle of Gaza where the three
brigades had to advance across exposed ground, withstanding shrapnel, machine gun and rifle fire, to capture the Turkish fortifications.

They went on to see more action across Egypt and southern Palestine, at the Battle of Romani, the Battle of El Buggar Ridge, and at Tell ‘Asur. In July 1918, and with the war over, the 53rd Division (including the four brothers) set sail for Britain. Months later, their mother received a telegram from King George V, thanking her family for their service.

So, why 966? That was the serial number of my grandfather — the eldest brother. Whenever I need motivation, or feel like complaining about my lot in life, I think about what he and his siblings endured.

Stay strong, stay true to yourself, honour your ancestors, but be your own hero.