The Late Colonel Machell: An Appreciation (Workington Star)

Main article: Percy Wilfred Machell

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.

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.