My Best Pal Dropped, Smiled, Gave a Shudder and Lay Still

My Best Pal Dropped, Smiled, Gave a Shudder and Lay Still

Postby kerchi » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:02 pm

1. The following is a transcript from the Cumbrian newspaper, The News & Star, which the editor has given special permission to be shown here.
2. Please note that due to certain copyright issues images from the original article cannot be shown.
3. This article is from the Memory Lane series written by David Hay.

THIS graphic description of the disastrous attack by the Lonsdales on July 1, 1916, in which more than half the battalion were either killed, wounded or missing, was written by a soldier called Graham, who came from Cotehill, near Carlisle.

“WHEN we were told on June 30 that we would go over the top in the morning most of us were in the best of spirits, but some were miserable. One man, who sat with his head in his hands, asked a chap if anything should happen would he send his belongings to his wife. He handed over a few things and went back to his seat and wrote was to be his last letter home. He was a married man with four kiddies.

We settled down to wait patiently for the morn, when the sun shone and the birds whistled - one of those days that makes one glad to be alive. Then the sergeant major appeared with a small cup, the rum in a mess tin, and the news that we were going over the top in 15 minutes. The rum didn't take much swallowing as there was very little of it and every one of the 15 minutes seemed like and hour.

The suspense ended with the command 'Come on B boys, get out'. Then everything seemed to happen in a flash - a machine gun opened up and a bullet burned the back of my neck. My best pal dropped, gave a smile then gave a shudder and lay still. He was 17.

It rained bullets and I dived in a shell hole for cover. How I missed being hit was a miracle, as bullets were hitting every foot of the ground and sending up spurts of dirt around my head. I called to a corporal who had been hit in the ankle to crawl over and I would have a look at his wound. He had just moved to do this when a bullet caught him in the throat. He was making such awful noises it made me feel sick. Then he was put out of his pain by another bullet.

Men were lying every few yards, some hanging on the German barbed wire. A dozen men started walking towards the Germans but a machinegun opened up and they all dissapeared.

A bumbled bee buzzed around my head and settled on a flower; up above a skylark was singing. Then a man jumped up screaming “mother, mother” and made towards me tearing at his clothes. I shut my eyes, expecting to feel his hands at my throat but he ran past me towards the German trenches. The poor fellow must have gone mad through pain.

The shells began to drop in no-man's-land and for the first time I felt fear. One burst in front of me and I received such a smack in the leg I thought it had been cut off. I did not dare look at it and when I moved it burned terribly. When one shell fragment hit my right hand and another my elbow I did not wait for any more and, risking bullets and shells, I ran as I had never ran before for our lines, jumping the wire and dropping safely in the bottom of the trench.”

The authour of this article was 16 years of age but lied and said he was 19 when he enlisted in the Lonsdales. After he recoved on July 1, 1916, he was transferred to the 6th Borders and was almost killed at Ypres by a shell which exploded under him. Does anyone recall this soldier?

The extract from Graham's memoirs was taken from Colin Bardgett's book, The Lonsdale Battalion, 1914-1918.

Colonel who died leading his men

COLONEL Percy Machell, of Crackenthorpe Hall, Appleby (Appleby-in-Westmorland), was commissioned into the Essex Regiment in 1882 and spent much of his service in Egypt.

When Lord Lonsdale formed his battalion, he asked Col Machell, who by then had retired from the Army, to train and command it. When he was killed leading his men over the top on July 1, 1916, his medals went to his widow, Lady Victoria Gleichen. When they eventually came up for auction in London they were aquired by the Border Regiment regimental museum in Carlisle Castle for £4,900, which included a grant of £2,400 from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The medals are
  • The Order of St Michael and St George
  • The Distinguished Service Order
  • The Egypt Medal 1882-1889
  • The Queen's Sudan Medal 1896-1898
  • The 1914-15 Star
  • The War Medal
  • The Victory Medal
  • The Turkish Order of Osmaniah 4th Class
  • Khediv's Star
  • Sash Badge and Breast Star of the Turkish Order of Medjidie 1st Class

Published Tuesday 24th July, 2001, The News & Star
In memory of John Bardgett (15309 L/Cpl.), 11th Border Regiment who died 1st July 1916.

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The Border Regiment Forum is a small and friendly community for anyone with an interest in the British regiment throughout its long and colourful history. The forum was set up first and foremost to bring together those with an interest and passion in the Regiment; to ask questions, share stories, provide knowledge and post photos relating to the regiment during the various conflicts and peacetimes it bore witness to.

  -  Cumbria's Museum of Military Life
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  -  7th Border Regiment War Grave Project and Roll of Honour
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  -  11th Border Regiment (Lonsdale) War Grave Project