Esmond. The Lost Idol. 1895-1917

Original, unpublished diaries, letters and remarkable photographs; featuring Canada, the splendour of the Raj, Eton and the Royal Family; reconstruct the life of Esmond Elliot, officer in the Scots Guards, who led a strategically decisive raid before dying a hero, aged 22, at the beginning of 3rd Ypres.
Publication date:
September 2017
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Editor :
Johnnie Astor, Alexandra Campbell
Illustration :
100 ills, maps
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781912174027

Dimensions : 245 X 180 mm
This book is available


• Compiled by Lord Astor of Hever, a great-nephew of Esmond Elliot, this book combines narrative with previously unpublished letters and diaries, a record of Esmond's life written by his mother, and remarkable photographs, including ones taken by him at the frontline with his pocket Kodak. It is a modern example of the type of memorial volume privately produced by grieving aristocratic families during and after the First World War and is an important contribution to the rich experiential literature of 1914-18
• Esmond's father, the 4th Earl of Minto, was one of the most highly-regarded and capable rulers of British India. Esmond visited Calcutta in 1906 and was exposed to the extraordinary splendour and spectacle of the Raj. He met Maharajahs, the Amir of Afghanistan, the Begum of Bhopal and Lord Kitchener. In the book are letters from notable people in the world of politics and the Army and the Royal Family
• Esmond's charm and dynamism won him many friends and influenced fellow soldiers. He spread happiness wherever he went and radiated such positive energy that when he died, it was as if a light had gone out in people's lives. The reader will find him equally irresistible
• He was the inspiration for the hero Eric Sinclair, in the best -selling post-war novel, Way of Revelation, written by Wilfrid Ewart, published in 1921

Esmond Elliot, younger son of the Earl of Minto, Viceroy of India, was killed while serving with the Scots Guards, aged 22, at the beginning of the Passchendaele Offensive.

Compiled from his grieving mother's memorial of his life, together with his letters, diaries and photographs from the front, the story begins with a sweeping panorama of a golden pre-war era, featuring Canada, the splendour of the Raj, Eton and the Royal Family, and ends with sacrifice on the Western Front.

After leaving Eton in 1914, Esmond gave up his place at Cambridge and joined the Lothians and Border Horse Yeomanry. He arrived in France in February 1916 as ADC to Geoffrey Feilding who was in charge of the Guards Division. As a staff officer, he was exposed to the complexities and responsibilities of High Command and to senior military figures, but he yearned for action and, six months later, joined the Scots Guards, a regiment which would take him to the frontline.

During the bitter winter of 1916/17, he saw fierce fighting on the Somme, when his Battalion suffered terrible losses.

In preparation for the Passchendaele Offensive, which began on 31 July 1917, Esmond led a daring raid across the Yser Canal, returning with vital intelligence which helped the Guards Division in their successful seizure of the bank on the enemy side four days before the main assault. A week later, while in command of his Company, he was killed by a single bullet.

Esmond's jottings, direct and spontaneous, reveal the rapid transformation and maturing of a young officer exposed to war. His mother's collection of letters shows the extent to which one life, albeit brief, touched so many people and how the memory of it, and the influence of his goodness, left a lasting impression.

John Buchan wrote of Esmond: "His gallantry was remarkable even among gallant men and in the darkest days his debonair and gentle spirit made a light around him.”

And in a letter to Esmond's mother, his Platoon Sergeant paid the following tribute: "We have lost our idol for we had set him on a pedestal in our hearts. He came to us and claimed our affections so that, now he has gone, we will miss him more than words can tell.”
Professor Sir Hew Strachan: "The account of a young vibrant and privileged life cut short at Ypres in 1917 is at one level a familiar one, not least in its apparent tragic inevitability. But The Lost Idol is much more. It is the story of a mother as well as a son, of a family as much as a regiment. And alongside the words are the pictures. Esmond Elliot, like many soldiers of the First World War, recorded his experiences with a Kodak Vest Pocket Camera: new technology enabled images to give wings to his words.”


[Esmond's] story, eloquently and lovingly told by Astor and Campbell, leaves the reader with an acute and tragic sense of loss. This moving tribute to Esmond is a fitting tribute to all the dead of this terrible war.
Guards Magazine

A fascinating biopic of Esmond Elliott, younger son of the Viceroy of India, killed at Passcendaele in 1917.
Books Monthly

The greatest triumph of this book is that it humanises Esmond, his diaries and letters providing the reader an intimate window into his life. Esmond's eventual death does not feel like the death of a distant historical figure in a dusty book, but rather that of a character to whom the reader feels closely connected.
Eton Chronicle

Provides insight into the thoughts and emotions of the soldier and his family and close friends, as he goes to war; survives several actions and the conditions of trench warfare; leads a raid across the Ypres canal just before the Third Battle of Ypres begins; and ultimately loses his life in a German counter-attack. A good, absorbing read.
Long Long Trail

This is a profoundly moving account […] Recommended indeed.
Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

The fact that no one knows the eventual outcomes makes this book all the more moving.
Stand to!