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A Selection of Letters written by Philip Erskine while serving with the Scots Guards 1953 -1971
Edited and compiled by Murray Naylor

Philip Erskine served in the Scots Guards during a period of great change, from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s. This charming selection of letters to Philip’s parents and his wife Fiona (before they were married), cover his time in the Canal Zone, as an ADC to the Governor General of New Zealand, and while commanding the Royal Guard at Balmoral.

The Canal Zone was an unpopular posting; the heat, the dirt, the tiresome tasks such as ‘cable cutting patrols’, the sporadic terrorism, and boredom. There were also reminders of home, like Spring Drills and the Queen’s Birthday Parade, and days on the ranges. And there was fun to be had: riotous parties in the Officers’ Mess (with ‘damages’ to pay), visits to Port Said, where the ‘King Farouk’ ice cream had been re-named ‘President Nasser’ ice-cream; and Cairo, with its ’special smells, a grandeur mixed with squalor’. 

Being an ADC in New Zealand was a different experience, with stories of dealing with pushy ladies demanding to be added to the next Government House party and fending off comments about how unfair it was for an ADC to arrive already engaged! Philip’s predecessor had left ‘a lot of broken hearts behind’, while his Naval opposite number had clearly promised marriage to several of the young ladies who came to wave him goodbye at the airport! Philip had to pick up the pieces by giving them champagne!

The last group of letters cover a two-month period at Balmoral in 1967.  As he records in his letter to his mother on 11th August, before The Queen’s arrival, it was the first time that the Brigade of Guards had mounted this duty, and ‘The Queen has expressed the wish that bearskins should not be worn – too formal for Balmoral is the reason given’. And in another letter he tells his mother: ‘I never take my kilt off. One man came up to me and said “I see you have the Erskine kilt on. I have one myself”. I enquired why so and he said “Oh well, I needed one for the Highland Games so I fancied this one in a shop in Aberdeen” ’.

These are charming letters; they tell of a different era, and yet they will resonate with later generations. They are enjoyable to read, particularly now that letter writing has become something of a lost art in an era of emails and social media.

The Editor

The book is available from Murray Naylor at a cost of £15 including postage & packing. For details contact murray.naylor64@gmail.com








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