Quotes by Percy Wilfrid Machell

The following quotes are by the Commanding Officer of the Lonsdale Battalion, Lt-Col. Percy Wilfred Machell.


21 September

  • Owing to the impossibility of obtaining at once sufficient blankets, underclothing, and necessaries, Recruiting Officers are requested to inform all recruits that they are recommended to take with them the following articles , which will be taken over if serviceable and paid for according to valuation of the prescribed government rates. Each recruit: Blankets 2 or 3. Clothing 2 pairs of boots and laces, 1 pair woollen drawers, 1 cardigan, waistcoat or jersey. Necessaries 1 pair braces, 1 hairbrush, 1 shaving and 1 toothbrush, 1 comb, 1 knife, 1 fork, 1 spoon, 1 razor, 2 flannel shirts, 3 pairs of sock, 2 towels.[1]

30 September

  • Thanks to the Executive Committee and other patriotic gentlemen at Kendal, Carlisle & Workington we have been able to start long before our central camp could be ready. One thing we will not do & that is ask a man to come to us before we are ready to make him comfortable.
When a man joins the Lonsdale Battalion he is taking a wise step. Lord Lonsdale, whose name we are proud to bear, has lent us marquees, stoves, cookers, & is helping us in every way. We are a battalion of "Pals", men from different localities in the two Counties soldiering together in sections, platoons and companies. – Officers, Non-Commissioned officers & men, we are all soldiers; badges and stripes do not imply social superiority, but merely indicate our jobs. We are all rungs upon the same ladder. Officers are no good without the rank and file, and the rank and file are no good without the officers.
If I am the Commanding Officer, it is not because I am a better man than anyone else, but because I have been a soldier, & know what I have got to do. True discipline is based on the genuine cooperation of all ranks, and we have all of us joined with the one idea. We are out for King & Country and each has got to do his best.
There will have to be a lot of drill at first, because drill means system, & we cannot do without it, but drill is not the end, it is only the beginning. On top of drill will come the big thing, the development of the soldier’s sense of duty, the soldier spirit. Once we have got this, everything comes easy, hardship & danger, it is all Duty, and we will do our duty for all we are worth.
As we have written on our posters, the men of Westmorland & Cumberland will enlist together & fight together, & I look with confidence to the Lonsdale Battalion becoming one of the finest fighting regiments in the British Army.[2]
  • I have to act as drill-sergeant and buck and bark vociferously to get up a high standard....Men take the talking well. It is much better than punishing....Far better make a man than break him.[3]


27 April

  • One thing is certain, viz. that we ought to move on from here with Brigade as soon as possible – people are mocking at our men & they hate it – recruits say it is no good joining a Battalion which does not get out further than Blackhall....I expect things near Ypres are so bad that Kitchener is thinking seriously about Home Defence, & this is probably his reason for creating local armies. Anyway what we ought to have is a move sometime soon....the men are getting rather stale here, comfortable as we are.[1]

28 April

  • Lt-Col. Machell to Lord Lonsdale: Today received orders appointing Lonsdale to 97th Brigade with three battalions Highland Light Infantry to assemble at Prees Heath [near Whitchurch in Shropshire] and advanced party to be held in readiness proceed early so all is well. I expect we have to thank you and am deeply grateful. [1]

3 May

  • Our Advanced Party, 4 officers, and 200 NCO's and men, left this morning 9.30 for Prees Heath....all in excellent form & very pleased with the move.[1]
  • March round Silloth – halt and fall out at Silloth short time before starting march [to] Wigton. Halt about 6-7 minutes before each clock hour. Halt for luncheon near, but just outside of Wigton, about 1⁄2 or 3⁄4 mile, and go in with Bugles – smartly – Halt, pile arms, take off packs, mount guard & sentry (relieve) & let men fall out until 1⁄2 an hour before time to fall in.[4]

4 May

  • D Company has gone to Prees, & as one camp is now ready, I have wired to ask sanction for us to go on Friday or Saturday.[1]

6 May

  • You will think me unreasonable about the rations for Saturday, but it is one of those things that is impossible – we draw on 1/9d per head here & have to live on it – it is not possible to calculate the value of the various ‘ingredients’ of the tea meal & pay for them – But it is quite easy as it is – we have breakfast here, dinner in the train, & take tea sugar milk, cheese etc, asking you to have the bread bought locally & all ready, because it is bulky – then on Sunday we get no 1/9 & simply draw the usual army ration and the 4d per man grocery ration.
The Battn is being paid today....There is the usual excitement, of course, & they tell me we shall have a job to get down Botchergate on Saturday morning – No detail yet about hour of departure but it will be 2 trains – The 1st probably taking heavy baggage & 1 Company, The other kitbags etc & 2 Companies. I wish Lord Lonsdale could have seen D Company too. I am so glad all are doing so well....I think all is straight here – It is lucky I don’t want to go away myself! [Capt.] Clart has been North & gathers that our Scotch friends are not wonderful. I wish they were – it would lift us along to get with good people.[5]

7 May

  • A & detachment D with all baggage & transport horses, 2.20pm....Baggage to go up to Camp by Contractor’s line – B & C & Horses 3.40pm. - Nothing in this train but men and officers’ horses....All well here....Lord Lonsdale has been and inspected us today & made a good speech which I hope will be published – There were some reports present. All cut and dried now for tomorrow & I expect a big crush in the town this time.[6]

11 May

  • We had a tremendous crowd to see us off, but got here [ Prees Heath Camp ] all right. It is a good camp but I am worried about ground for training.[1]

25 November

  • Very good moving on gradually, so the men get used to billeting; it’s a big change for these lads, accustomed to having everything done for them. Their minds move slowly and they think it’s still training; so far we have got along first rate, much better than others. Spring-Rice[7] very good at getting the transport along.[8]

14 December

  • They are in very good form, and prepared to look smiling under all possible circumstances. I had a talk yesterday on the futility of grousing and the necessity of making the best instead of the worst of everything. Sandbags much wanted. I have been in the trenches a lot to-day, and see how useful a private supply would be. Difficulty in keeping the walls standing, owing to the quantity of water, and there is nothing like sandbags.[8]

17-19 December

  • All will be more comfortable when our Division takes over. C.O.’s are well enough off always apparently, having pretty good dug-outs and a chance of drying up, but I feel very bad about the men, and one can’t do enough for them.[8]

22 December

  • The men are excellent. I am very energetic, as you may imagine, and they respond splendidly. I am quite delighted with them. They are not foolish at all, just sensible, and do their job without the smallest fuss, though the hardships for them are demandable. For us it is much better, as we can generally get dry socks and a better place to lie in....I have nothing to complain of at all. I am working day and night.[8]

23 December

  • First week in trenches, only six casualties, one, Nicholson (of Carlisle), since died. The 51st Division, to which we were attached, especially thanked Rycroft for the way the 11th Borders had played up.[9][8]


7-14 January

  • It is delightful how easily all the working parties can be arranged, and how satisfactorily an immense amount of work is done with a minimum amount of fatigue to the men, by careful and systematic arrangement beforehand. We do more than twice what the others do, and our men do it twice as easily. It is all very small, but it is good to see the result, both in the work and in the men themselves...I have three patrols every night. They go cautiously at first, and I get them to go a bit wider every night, so as gradually to get confidence.[10]
  • One of our patrols bumped into a German one a few night ago. Germans retired and we got our machine-gun on to them; one German got left, and was brought in in triumph, everyone much pleased. Last night patrol, under Matthews, the police sergeant, got right inside the German wire and located a big working party in the open. Got back and put a M.G. and a lot rifles on to them—groans, lights flying about, silence for half an hour, and then retaliation with whizz-bangs[11] and rifle grenades—no effect. Quite good. It has given them a start, so much turns on the way the first things go. We have located a spot where I believe they are making a trench mortar battery, so we have arranged for our artillery to flatten this place quite out to-morrow. The new R.A. is first class.[8]

13 January

  • McKerrow (Lieut.) was out with a small patrol, bumped into sniper—all Germans started to shoot—McKerrow told the men to crawl, and got back with corporal and two men. Two other men were missing; they lost their way, keeping too much to the right, climbed carefully over what they thought was our parapet, and found good steps inside, trenches 12 feet deep, all well walled up, and the floors boarded, clean and dry. One said to the other, These ain’t our [?] trenches! - saw a fine dug-out, and wanted to throw a bomb in, and the German wire had been so awful to get through they knew they wouldn’t be able to. They just had time to skip up on top of the parapet when 40 men passed within a yard of them. They got through the wire with some noise, the Germans firing as the wire rattled, but got back safely.[8]
  • Two batteries, 18-pounders, one battery trench mortars, and some 4.5 howitzers, H.E. shells, all on to 100 yards of German front. They made beautiful shooting, and blew mud and wood quite 100 feet high. Guns then started at us from behind their line, and they sent a lot of shells all about us; luckily only one man hit.[8]

23 March

  • Last night a beastly rifle grenade fell in the middle of a party of our men who were putting out wire. Pitch dark night and a chance shot, as they had no idea anyone was out. It got five. One of my best Sergeants killed dead and another so badly hurt that he died before we could get him back over our parapet. Both personal friends. Harrison, the Captain, is splendid. I was anxious not to have anyone outside, and with another man was laboriously dragging in the Sergeant, when he, Harrison, took him on his back and walked in with him…We have been extremely ‘fortunate’, and I believe we are supposed to have done very well all along....so if anything goes wrong at any time we shall have something to our credit in the past.[8]

28 March

  • Getting short of officers. The regular battalions are always changing, but these North-Country men want to know their officers thoroughly or they count for very little.[8]

17 May

  • New sector hotter in every way than any we have been in yet, but have far better dug-outs for Headquarters.[8]

23 May

  • Out for three days, then four in, then a bit back for twelve days, and right back for twelve more, that is now our usual routine.[8]

26 May

  • Before he [ Gerald Spring-Rice ] joined he had done splendid work as Secretary of the Executive Committee, and from the time of his appointment as Transport Officer until the day of his death he devoted his entire energies to the welfare of the Battalion, in the formation of which he had such an important share.[8]

6 June

  • Complete success last night, only unfortunately Barnes, the O.C. Raid, was killed just before they got back, with five others. We took 11 prisoners alive, about 25 others killed. Men did splendidly, and I have telegrams from Division—(Major-General Rycroft), Corps—(Lieut.-General Sir T. Morland), and Army—(General Sir H. Rawlinson) Commanders to-day. A party of correspondents was sent down from G.H.Q. to-day to get information about it, brought here by a staff Officer.[8]

26 June

  • Relieved to-night by K.O.Y.L.I.[12] Continuous bombardment by both sides. We go out for a day or two’s rest preparation, into a lot of dug-outs under a big bank close behind. The locum tenens doctor is astonished at the efficiency of our stretcher-bearers, who, he says, are as capable as they are devoted; say he never has to undo anything. We certainly owe a great deal to S__ and to Kirkwood. Quite a few casualties to-day, very strenuous.[8]

28 June

  • Tremendous bombardment for four days. We have had a comparatively safe two days behind this big bank, but the poor people who relieved us have suffered terribly.[8]
  • The G.O.C. Division expects us to take Mouquet Farm to-morrow and keep it. I told the General that he could reply on the Lonsdales to carry out his orders. The thought that night, until we start, I ask everyone to be as quiet as possible in the wood and to show no lights, in order to avoid calling special attention to our location. Before noon to-morrow we shall have accomplished our task. I feel no doubt about it, because, as in the case of the raid, we have made every possible preparation, and the whole battalion means to do its duty, as Lieut. Barnes and the Company raiders did theirs.[13]

30 June

  • None go back as long as can stick out. Shells in wood and on emerging, also our front line. All not hit must push on. Must do our job. If all goes well, I stay proper place; if goes badly, I come up and see it through.[14][15]

References / notes

Material from Timeline/Chronology of the Lonsdale Battalion (September 1914 - May 1915) are sourced from the DLONS/L/13/13 Lowther Estate Archives. Entries from this timeline are reproduced here with kind permission of Jim Lowther and are not available under the license of this site. Please do not publish these extracts on other publicly visible media without prior permission from the copyright holder.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Record No. DLONS/L/13/13/279
  2. Record No. DLONS/L/13/13/42 In correspondence to the Cumberland & Westmorland Territorial Forces’ Association.
  3. Record of the XIth (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale) - In England
  4. Record No. DLONS/L/13/13/278
  5. Record No. DLONS/L/13/13/57
  6. Record No. DLONS/L/13/13/42
  7. Lieut. Gerald Spring-Rice, the Transport Officer of the Battalion, was killed on 26th May 1916 by a spent bullet. He was 52 years of age.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 Record of the XIth (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale) - In France
  9. Not meant in the sense to misbehave or aggrandise, but rather more appropriately and positively how they engaged themselves in their actions.
  10. Record of the XIth (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale) - In France
  11. Referring to the sound of a light shell that was fired from smaller calibre field guns. Whiz (flight), bang (explosion).
  12. King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
  13. Record of the XIth (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale) - Appendix D
  14. Things did go badly and he did "come up and see it through" when he made his way to the British front line after seeing his men cut down by machine-gun fire. Lt-Col. Machell was true to his word and was killed upon climbing the parapet.
  15. Record of the XIth (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale) - Appendix E
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