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Saturday, July 5, 2008


This poem was written by Ewart Alan Mackintosh (1893-1917).

Mackintosh is widely regarded as one of Scotland's finest war poets. He went to the Western Front with the 5th Seaforth Highlanders in 1915. A. Mackintosh served as an officer in the Seaforth Highlanders from December 1914. He played the pipes, spoke Gaelic, and was loved by his men who affectionately called him "Tosh."

For his part, Mackintosh returned that love.

On May 16th, 1916, he carried wounded Private David Sutherland through 100 yards of German trenches with the Germans in hot pursuit. However, before Mackintosh could bring him to friendly trenches, Private Sutherland died and his body had to be left behind. Mackintosh's bravery would win him the Military Cross.

After being invalided home after being gassed, Mackintosh was offered a post instructing cadets. But he chose to return to France and was killed at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917.

The full title of the poem is "In Memoriam, Private D. Sutherland, killed in action in the German trench 16 May 1916, and the others who died."

Ewart Alan Mackintosh
Born: 4th March 1893
Died: 21st November 1917 (Killed in Action)
Aged 24 years

War, The Liberator, and Other Pieces, by E.A. Mackintosh, M.C., lt. Seaforth Highlanders (51st division) ; with a memoir. -- London, John Lane ; New York, John Lane company, 1918.

In Memoriam, Private D. Sutherland
So you were David's father,
And he was your only son,
And the new-cut peats are rotting
And the work is left undone,
Because of an old man weeping,
Just an old man in pain,
For David, his son David,
That will not come again.
Oh, the letters he wrote you
And I can see them still,
Not a word of the fighting
But just the sheep on the hill
And how you should get the crops in
Ere the year got stormier,
And the Bosches have got his body,
And I was his officer.

You were only David's father,
But I had fifty sons
When we went up in the evening
Under the arch of the guns,
And we came back at twilight-
O God! I heard them call
To me for help and pity
That could not help at all.

Oh, never will I forget you,
My men that trusted me,
More my sons than your fathers',
For they could only see
The little helpless babies
And the young men in their pride.
They could not see you dying,
And hold you when you died.

Happy and young and gallant,
They saw their first-born go,
But not the strong limbs broken
And the beautiful men brought low,
The piteous writhing bodies,
They screamed 'Don't leave me, sir"
For they were only your fathers
But I was your officer.

For his gallantry during the raid 2nd Lieutenant (temporary Lieutenant) Ewart Alan Mackintosh was awarded the Military Cross. The citation for his award is listed in the Supplement to the London Gazette, dated 24th June 1916:

"For conspicuous gallantry. He organised and led a successful raid on the enemy's trenches with great skill and courage. Several of the enemy were disposed of and a strong point destroyed. He also brought back two wounded men under heavy fire."

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