Record of the XIth (Service) Battalion (Lonsdale) - Appendix J
Below are given some short appreciations of Col. P.W. Machell, which appeared in the Press a few days after the announcement of his death.
The Times, July 10th
Lord Cromer, in a letter in yesterday's “Times”, says, “The hand of death has of late weighed heavily on the comrades with whom but a few years ago I was associated in the work of Egyptian reform”. He eulogises the work of Lord Kitchener, Bishop Brindle, and Sir Gaston Maspero, and continues: “But my principle reason for addressing you now is to pay a heartfelt tribute to death's latest victim.
Colonel Machell has been numbered amongst these who have laid down their lives in the service both of their country and of the civilization of the world. Like so many who have done invauable but unostentatious work, his name was but little known to the masses of his countrymen. This is an additional reason which prompts me to testify to the admirable services which he rendered as virtual head of the Ministry of the Interior of Egypt.
Firm, just, genial, and thoroughly straightforward, this fine specimen of an English gentleman gained the sympathy and respect of all alike, and especially of the natives of Egypt, to whom he became endeared.
Germany, with all her erudition and highly organised system of education, cannot produce Imperial agents of the type well represented by Colonel Machell. To us they constitute national assest of priceless value”.
The Westmorland Gazette
A Non-Commissioned Officer's Tribute
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.
A tribute to the late Colonel Machell, from a writer who served under him in a battalion “as fine and efficient as any that we have”. In the course of the article the writer says: -
'The words have already been recorded of at least one wounded soldier who saw Colonel Machell fall shot through the head whilst springing forward with a company of his battalion into one of the most murderous concentrations of cross fire ever seen in this war. He went forward at a slightly earlier stage than he might otherwise have done, because he with one of his companies saw how the triple barrages of machine-gun fire was mowing down lines of their comrades in front. To all present his gallant death was precisely what each day of his life as a commanding officer had been to them, precisely what all his life had been to everyone who was privileged to know this unfailing strong man - a vividly compelling inspiration to duty, an undeniable stimulus to effort.
"His distinguished and honourable record of service in Egypt and England may be traced in the usual works of reference. But over and above all these official facts he was a man who from youth to his last breath never ceased to serve. He knew no other way of life, and no man ever found him idle. Travelling in Canada, working in London, or on his family estate in Westmorland, this man served England and the Empire all the time just as surely as when at the head of his own Soudanese battalion, in the Government Offices of Egypt, or in the training of his splendid 'Lonsdales'.
"It was the Machell stamp which he placed on every member of that brave band of Border men that has won them honours wherever they have been, in England or in France.
"He asked no more of any man than he himself gave always - every particle of energy and devotion of which he was possessed. Vital, real, devoted, tireless, a mortal hater of any kind of sham, a martinet by logical conviction and principle, a great soldier and leader, and an English gentleman without reproach, Colonel Machell was possessed of very exceptional creative and constructive abilities and quite extraordinary strength of character and will. These things he gave utterly and always to his country. He lived and died in the most vigorous service of his country, and it is sincerely to be hoped that no losses or any other causes whatever will be allowed to lead to the disintegration as a distinct military entity of the battalion which he raised to such a magnificent standard of efficiency. He gave a tradition along with their fine training to the Border Battalion which bears the name of Lonsdale, and that, together with the brave spirit of their dead colonel, should be preserved to them for ever."
The Late Colonel Machell: An Appreciation
A Westmorland officer who knew Col. Machell well writes:-
"As one who was closely associated with Col. Machell in the creation of the Lonsdale Battalion and in its early career, I should like to give a humble tribute to the memory of this splendid soldier, who has laid down his life during the last few days in the great offensive in France.
"He was a man gifted with great organizing powers and untiring energy. After a brilliant career in the Egyptian Army, he acted as advisor to the Minister of the Interior of Egypt, and on giving up that appointment, came home not to a life a really well-earned leisure, but to take up public work; and with his characteristic energy he was soon hard at work as a member of the London County Council.
"Later he came to reside at Crackenthorpe, the old home of the Machells. Again he came to the front, for upon the secretary of the Territorial Force Association being laid aside by severe illness at the beginning of the war, Col. Machell stepped into the breach, working early and late in those strenuous months, and winning golden opinions from all with whom he came in contact. When the idea of raising a Service Battalion from Cumberland and Westmorland was raised, and the question of a commanding officer was considered, it was felt that if he (then Capt. Machell) would accept the post, the success of the battalion was assured. He took over the command, and from that moment up to the supreme moment when he fell heroically leading his beloved battalion, he threw himself heart and soul into the interest of the Lonsdales.
"I remember full well how he patiently evolved order out of chaos, with quite scratch material in the way of regimental staff; no day was too long for him, and no detail too trivial for him to work at. Slowly, but very surely, the battalion grew under his incessant and fostering care. He was eminently wise in the selection of his N.C.O.’s, where his great experience as a practical soldier stood him in good stead. He inspired the men with high ideals, and though a strict disciplinarian, he was so human and understood the men so well, that I verily believe not a man ever brought up before him, however sullen and unruly a soldier, left his presence without feeling that his punishment was fairly deserved. Nay, he made such men feel that the Honour and credit of the battalion was in their hands, with the result that they honestly endeavoured ever afterwards to live and work, and, if need be, to die for the regiment.
"Col. Machell never could ‘suffer fools gladly’; as long as an officer or man used common sense and put brains into his work, Col. Machell would regard indulgently and defects in it. As he once remarked to the writer, ‘Why on earth imagine that once they don His Majesty’s uniform they say good-bye to common sense, I never can understand’. He was always solicitous for the men’s comfort and welfare; their food, clothing, housing, health, and amusements were objects of his incessant and careful interest. In every way, he upheld the best traditions of the British officer, and was enabled by it to get the last ounce, so to speak, from his devoted men, for he would never call upon them to do things which he did not carry out himself.
"There will be many humble homes amidst the mining district of West Cumberland, and in many a lonely dale, from the Scottish Border down to pastoral South Westmorland, where the memory of this truly great man will be reverenced; and the influence he imparted to the Lonsdales will be as good fruit in the lives of many who had the privilege of serving under him."