Armistice Day – Lest We Forget

Posted: November 11, 2008 in Military, Soldiers, War
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On the 11th day, of the 11th month, at the 11th hour

My favourite war poem, and to me the most touching and moving one, is In Memoriam by Ewart Alan Mackintosh (killed in action 21 November 1917 aged 24)

(to 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.

Inspiration for the Poem
On the evening of 16 May, 1916 Lieutenant Ewart Alan Mackintosh and Second Lieutenant Mackay of the 5th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders led a raid on the German trenches in the sector of the front line north-west of Arras. By the end of the night there were sixteen British casualties, which included fourteen wounded and two killed. One of the two dead soldiers was Private David Sutherland.

They shall not grow old as we who are left to grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
We will remember them.

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