Troubador Granddaddy

Released: 28/01/2021

ISBN: 9781800461826

eISBN: 9781800468146

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book


The Sorrows of My Great-grandfather, and the Extraordinary Bravery of his Family


Robert Lee only knew his great-grandfather James Erskine briefly when he was very young. But when, in later life, he inherited a trunkful of old letters and diary entries, he discovered the extraordinary, though tragic, story of the Erskine family.  

Brought up in Glasgow in the Victorian era, James lost two children to infant mortality, and his wife to tuberculosis. His two surviving sons, both talented athletes and one a world champion boxer, were killed in the First World War, having showed amazing bravery. In addition, his son-in-law, Robert’s grandfather, was killed on the opening day of the Passchendaele offensive, leaving his daughter a widowed mother aged only 20.  

After the Great War, James fought a protracted but unsuccessful battle with the War Office to have his son’s Military Cross upgraded to a Victoria Cross, and subsequently handled his sorrow by becoming a recluse, living a Spartan life on a Scottish hillside into his 80s.

An insightful and moving book, which details real life hardships that are very sobering in this current climate. Beautiful to read the letters and diary entries of our war heroes, who wrote so eloquently. A fascinating insight into our history.

by Katharine

An extraordinarily moving book. The letters give a graphic account of life at the front in the two world wars, displaying the matter-of-fact bravery of the soldiers in the face of the horrors of war, but also their ability to find humour in many situations. What shines out is the love between the family members - and their hope for a future which, tragically, many of them didn’t live to see. The photos add to the poignancy of the loss.

by Therese

This is a wonderful collection of letters and diary entries that have been skilfully woven together to give a remarkable insight into life in the trenches and other battles of 2 World Wars. Added extra details are well researched and provide insight into daily life of the time. Above all it is a story of one family who suffered great loss, but optimism and bravery shine through. A page-turner.

by Rosalind White

The book tells the story of the author’s ancestors during the Great War. An writer myself, it’s just the sort of book I enjoy reading about that time in history. It’s absolutely packed with direct quotes from the men’s letters home, interspersed with narratives about the particular battles, etc that they took part in. It becomes almost more a social history than a military one. A fascinating glimpse into events of over a century ago

by John Hartley

Robert Lee's book about his family's war service is a moving combination of the personal and historical. The author provides an efficient, unsentimental background of family history as context for the letters from the front, which make up the bulk of the material. The letters take the reader right into life in the trenches, and draw portraits of men who have been shaped so differently than we are today. A book that expanded my appreciation of the world, which is the best compliment I can give.

by Patrick

This gripping book describes the horrors of war through the prism of one exceptionally hard-hit family. In writing it, Robert Lee has done a masterly job of introducing and marshalling such a wealth of intensely personal family records. The letters are truly remarkable. They are wonderfully eloquent - despite many of them being dashed off in the most trying of circumstances. And the juxtaposition between their unsentimental, almost nonchalant descriptions of the ghastly, relentless grind of life (and death) at the front, and the tender feelings they so frequently and fervently express for loved ones back home, creates a deeply affecting contrast.

Reading Granddaddy also gave me a fresh insight into the immense scale of the individual smaller tragedies played out in millions of families across the land in those terrible war years. An extremely moving and thought-provoking book.

by Julian Squire

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