A Non-Commissioned Officer's Tribute (Westmorland Gazette)
- Main article: Percy Wilfred Machell
An N.C.O. of the Lonsdales, who has served under Lieut.-Col. Machell from the time he took over the command of the battalion, and had good opportunities of noting his influence on the men and their development, writes that the deceased officer from the beginning set about a most difficult task with remarkable determination and energy to lick the men—most of the absolutely untrained as soldiers—into shape.
He was military to a degree, and to a degree he persisted in things being carried out regimentally. His personality soon made itself felt. Though at time he may have appeared abrupt, to put a light construction on his manner when things were not being carried out in accordance with his views, his brusqueness and bluntness were only the veneer over a sincere regard for his men, and an earnestness to bring the battalion up to concert pitch as soon as possible, so as to play its part over the water.
He took an intense pride in the battalion from the commencement, and the many weary months they were held back from the front were months when his patience was sorely tired. He could have had higher position, but he preferred to take the men into action whom he had trained. He yearned to have them at the front, and it was a proud moment for him—as well as the men whom he had under his command—when they left Codford on November 22nd last year for France.
To some of the men he may have appeared in the light of a martinet, as at time he was most severe in irony when dealing with defaulters, but those who studied him for the broad point of view and took into consideration the aim he had in view, saw that his intentions were excellent, and that underneath all the apparent severity there was a “white man”. The men began to know and feel that, and also that he had their interests, comfort and welfare at heart throughout.
He was a great believer in the principle that the best could only be got out of the properly fed men, whose comfort had been the first, not last consideration. Not only in England, but in France, was that one of his first thoughts. The field ration was, whenever possible, supplemented as much as possible by other variety of food; one of his main objects was to see that the men even in the top line of trenches had, if not an abundance, at least warm food. His men were his first consideration always, and one could see that it was a source of regret to him when it was necessary to put them in uncomfortable quarters, as was often the case out there.
He died as those who knew him well would have expected, keenly watching the progress of his men across No Man’s Land to the German trenches, and full of anxiety to follow them, so much so that when he saw the vanguard being bowled over unmercifully in their mad rush to achieve their object, his keenness to succour them could not be held under, and so he went over the parapet at the head of the supports. It was, regrettably, a short-lived impulsiveness, for he was immediately shot down and died in the trench he had just left.
So passed away a fine soldier, a born leader of men, who, notwithstanding his sever manner, became recognized by the men as “the man for them”. In him the Lonsdales have lost a staunch friend and comrade.