Thursday, 28 August 2008

Ewart Alan Mackintosh, Scottish Great War Poet.

After an action one of the officers duties was to write to the nearest relative of each deceased soldier, giving a few, often amended, details of their demise. MackIntosh was an officer who like many of his class came very close to the ordinary men who served under him. This reaction between the young middle class officers and the, mostly, working class men began a reaction that changed the class structure in the United Kingdom and left an effect that is still with us. This is one of the most moving examples of an officers attitude from the Great War.

In Memoriam

by Ewart Alan Mackintosh (killed in action 21 November 1917 aged 24)

(Private D Sutherland killed in action in the German trenches, 16 May 1916, and the others who died.)

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 get 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 while 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.

1 comment:

1st Lady said...

I remember studying WWI in great detail at high school, yet have never read this poem before. Heart wrenching.