John Egbert was the son of John Thomas and Mary Machin and was born on September 16th 1893 in Biddulph. His birth was registered at Congleton. John Thomas Machin had started as grocery assistant to his father, John, who had started the grocery business in Bridge Street and which is now a vet’s surgery. John Thomas took over the running of the business when his father died in 1887.
John Thomas Machin’s first wife had been Annie Whitehurst who he had married in 1879 in a civil ceremony in Congleton. By 1891, John Thomas was a widower with a five year old son, Edgar, to care for. Helping him was his housekeeper and sister-in-law Mary Whitehurst. Annie and Mary Whitehurst were the daughters of farmer Thomas Whitehurst, who originated from Biddulph but by 1871 had taken on a 120 acre farm called Ridgway Hall at Norton.
John Thomas married Mary Whitehurst in 1891 at Congleton in a civil ceremony and John Egbert was their first child. By 1901 the family lived at 51, Congleton Road (the same property – Bridge Street had been renamed Congleton Road), where John Thomas carried out his business as a grocer, baker and farmer. The family had expanded to include Charles Reginald and Grace Annie. Ten years later, John Egbert was assisting his father in the business. In 1917 he married Elizabeth Sutton at Station Road Methodist Chapel.
Photograph: Lt. John Egbert Machin in 1917 with his plane.
It is not certain if John joined the Royal Flying Corps at the start of his military service in August 1917 or if he transferred from another unit, as no service records can be found. In the RFC he trained with 123rd Training Squadron, one of a hundred such squadrons in 1918 with 7,000 aircraft for their use. John was at Duxford Aerodrome near Cambridge, a facility built during the Great War. John’s service record states that he flew both the DH6 and BE2e planes.
New airmen in these training squadrons were taught to fly and know the aircraft parts and functions, keeping formation in the “V” shape to prevent the breakup of the formation by enemy aircraft or “Archie”, the anti-aircraft batteries. The observers were taught to use their Lewis Guns and bomb aiming. Courses would take about eleven months to complete for new pilots and included some fifty hours of solo flight, though at times this may have been shortened.
Photograph: Lt John Egbert Machin Group Photograph 1917 [second from left back row].
During his time at Duxford a terrible flying accident occurred in which twenty four year old Second Lieutenant John Egbert Machin sadly died on the May 29th 1918. He was brought back to Biddulph where his family arranged his burial at St Lawrence Church. He rests in a family grave with a special RFC headstone of unique design and with an inscription that reads “He gave his life for England, but his soul to God. Gone but not forgotten”.
The Chronicle reported his death on June 8th 1918.
Biddulph Airman’s Sad Death
“The death occurred on Wednesday last week, as the result of an aeroplane accident, of Lieut. J.E. Machin, aged 24 years, son of Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Machin, of Congleton Road, Biddulph. The deceased officer was well known and respected in Biddulph, and that he had gained the high esteem of his comrades at the aerodrome is fully borne out by a letter received from the Captain by his parents. Lieut. Machin joined the R.A.F. in August 1917, and obtained his certificate in March. He leaves a widow and one child. He was at home on the Monday previous to the Wednesday when the fatal accident occurred.
In a letter to his parents Captain Pattison, of the RAF writes: “I wish to express, on behalf of the squadron and myself, our very deep sympathy for you in your sad loss. It is a very great loss to us all here as he (Lieut. Machin) was very popular among the men and officers. As far as I am personally concerned my chief memory of him is his keenness. He was always eager to fly, and was always working or learning something when he was not flying. His instructor had a very high opinion of him, and considered he was on the way to be a very fine pilot, and I share that view. I am sure if he had been spared he would have made a name for himself in the RAF”.
The interment took place at Biddulph Church on Monday afternoon and was witnessed by a large number of sympathising friends. Three officers from the RFA (including a cousin of the deceased) and three civilian cousins from the village acted as bearers, and the mourners were: Mrs. J.E. Machin (widow), Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Machin (father and mother), Miss Machin (sister), Mr. R. Machin (brother), Mr. and Mrs. E. Machin (brother and sister-in-law), and other relatives and friends from Biddulph. The first portion of the service was conducted at the Primitive Methodist Chapel by the Rev. A.J. Smith and Rev. W. Lawrence, after which the mortal remains were quietly laid to rest in the Biddulph Parish Churchyard.
A large number of beautiful wreaths were laid on the coffin from the deceased’s relatives and friends, including a beautiful floral tribute in the form of the RFA Badge, consisting of white carnations , red roses, and forget-me-nots, from the RFA Squadron, to which deceased was attached.”
John is also remembered on the Biddulph memorials.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.
With thanks to Roland Machin & Alan Fozard for family details.