Ewart Mackintosh was born in Brighton, the son of a Scottish father and an English mother. He owed his first name to his maternal grandfather James Guiness Rogers’s friendship with the British prime minister, William Ewart Gladstone. He was educated at Brighton College and then St Paul’s in London where he edited the school magazine. From there he won a scholarship to Christ Church College, Oxford in 1912 where he read classics.
On the outbreak of WWI he tried to enlist but was rejected on account of poor eyesight. He was however successful at the second attempt and joined the Seaforth Highlanders as a second lieutenant. After being wounded and gassed at the Battle of the Somme in 1915, he underwent a period of convalescence in England after which he was involved in the training of cadets. Whilst there he became engaged to Sylvia Marsh, a VAD. He returned to the front the following year and in 1917 lost his life at the Battle of Cambrai after being shot by a sniper. He was regarded by his men as a courageous and compassionate leader and was awarded the Military Cross for heroism after a raid on a German trench, although he said he would rather have the boys’ lives.
His war poetry has come to be more highly regarded in recent times and exhibits a deep sympathy for the sufferings of the men under his command and a sense of duty to his fellow soldiers. Particularly noteworthy are his poems Cha Till Maccruimein, To my Sister, In Memoriam, written for David Sutherland, a member of his platoon who died in battle ,and In No Man’s Land which ends with “Get back to your trench, you blighter, I really can’t shoot a man with a cold”. The last two lines of his poem The Creed on the frieze of the Scottish American war memorial in Edinburgh read “If it be life that waits, I shall live forever unconquered. If death, I shall die at last strong in my pride and free”.