Men were seen Throwing up their Arms and Collapsing...

Men were seen Throwing up their Arms and Collapsing...

Postby kerchi » Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:12 pm

The following transcript is from the Cumbrian newspaper, The News & Star; the editor has given special permission to be shown here.

THE Lonsdale Battalion is one of many groups of soldiers to suffer devastating losses on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Raised by the Earl of Lonsdale, the 11th Service Battalion, Border Regiment was made up of ‘Pals’ from towns and villages across Cumberland and Westmorland who joined up together. Led bravely by Colonel Percy Wilfred Machell, of Crackenthorpe Hall, the Battalion was almost wiped out. Of the 28 officers and 800 men that made up the Lonsdales, 23 officers and 500 men were either killed or wounded.

Penrith historian Colin Bardgett produced a book on the Battalion. The book details the lives and brave deaths of men who volunteered to serve and who suffered such terrible losses when they went ‘over the top’ on July 1, 1916:

At 8am exactly Col Machell gave the order from the edge of Authuille Wood to move out. The Lonsdales wished each other good luck and shook hands, then they started to advance, some cheering and singing as if in a football match.

As soon as the Lonsdales came into the open, the deadly machine gun fire ripped through their ranks. The Lonsdales were being strewn all over the ground as they made their way to the British trench. Col Machell, on seeing the slaughter of his men, managed to reach them in the British front trench. He made his way through the rear ranks in order to put himself at the head of his men, to lead them over the top to forward the advance. As soon as the colonel climbed to the top of the trench parapet, shouting to urge the men on, he fell shot through the head.

His adjutant, Lieutenant Gordon, was severely wounded as he stood over the Colonel’s body. The second in command, Major Diggle, had already been wounded. The Battalion had become leaderless in a few seconds, yet the Lonsdales continued the advance as they had been ordered. A few men even managed to join up with the Highland Light Infantry and fight their way through to the German front line and hold it against fierce German counter-attacks. But most of the men were caught in the deadly hail of German cross-fire sweeping the ranks of the Lonsdales.

Men were seen throwing up their arms and collapsing, never to move again, sprawled in rows before the German lines.

The attack slowly faded away. Throughout that long blazing summer’s day, shocked men, their uniforms torn and bloodied, clung to shell holes out in no-man’s land as shells fell among them, praying for night. The men tried to help their wounded comrades suffering in the afternoon heat; they tried to comfort the wounded friends with water taken from their dead comrades.

Then as it grew dark, those who had survived the slaughter slowly began to crawl from the shelter of their shell holes and make their way back across the battlefield to the safety of their own lines.

Published 1st July, 2006, 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
  -  8th Border Regiment War Grave Project and Roll of Honour
  -  11th Border Regiment (Lonsdale) War Grave Project