How Lieut-Colonel Machell Fell (West Cumberland Times)

Main article: Percy Wilfred Machell

Maryport sergeant's gallant deed rescuing an Officer under fire

Sergt. J.W. Gibbons, of Grasslot, tells some thrilling incidents of the great advance in a letter to Mr. J. Cameron, Lawson Street, Maryport. He says, “Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. You will have heard about the great advance which commenced on July 1st, and in which our battalion suffered so seriously. Our Colonel, Lieut. Col., Machell, died bravely. After all the Company officers had been knocked out he went to the front and shouted “Come on the Borders.” He fell on his face facing the enemy. I had to creep out under heavy fire to see if he was wounded or killed. He had been shot behind the ear with a machine gun bullet, death being instantaneous. Our Adjundant, Lieut. M. Gordon, was lying beside him with a wound in the head, the bullet had gone through his steel helmet. I crawled back to the trench to report to Company Sergt. Major Atkinson that the Colonel was dead and the Adjundant wounded, when I found that C.S.M. Atkinson had also been wounded. The Adjundant was lying in a place where he was likely to get more wounds, and I asked for a volunteer to go out with me to bandage his head and bring him in. Pvt. A. Whalley from Carlisle, volunteered to go and we crawled out amidst a perfect hailstorm of bullets. Whilst bandaging Lieut. Gordon poor Whalley was hit in the ankle, and had to retire. I also had to return to get more assistance. A Lance Corporal of the Dorsets volunteered to take Whalley’s place and between us we got Mr. Gordon into the trench and into the dressing station. I may state that two officers of the Dorsets took our names, and said we would probably hear more about it. Pvt. Whalley was regarded as the humorist of the Lonsdale Battalion, and is connected with the theatrical profession about Carlisle.

We had come against a German redoubt bristling with machine guns. Lieut Hobson from Maryport, was one of the first into ‘No Mans Land’. After getting about 50 yards I saw him waving to get back, as he was up against what appeared to be a large dam of water. He returned, and said we would have to try and get over a little further up the line. He had no sooner told me to follow him than he was wounded. I heard that whilst proceeding to the dressing station he was hit again. I hope his wounds are not serious.

Amongst the men wounded were three from Maryport – Pvt. G. Davidson, Pvt. Minchella and Pvt. R. Semple. All the Dearham lads were wounded. Pvt. H.Harrison from Flimby was wounded. It was an awful 1st of July. Bullets were falling like hailstones, whilst shrapnel was bursting above us. It was a miracle, in my opinion, that any of us came through it. Other regiments, acting in co-operation with us, were in the same hot corner. I am glad to state that amongst us we captured two lines of German trenches. The Germans also suffered heavily both in killed and wounded. Their trenches were full of dead Germans. Provided they can keep you at a respectable distance with their machine guns they are very keen fighters, but once we get at close quarters they throw their hands up. That is why you have seen so many prisoners pass through Maryport lately. I hope you are quite well, and that you will not worry about the state of the war as we have got the Germans on the run. This (in my opinion) is the beginning of the end.

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