Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Elphinstone, Howard Crawfurd

ELPHINSTONE, Sir HOWARD CRAWFURD (1829–1890), major-general, royal engineers, comptroller of the Duke of Connaught's household, fourth son of Captain Alexander Francis Elphinstone, royal navy, a noble in Livonia, and of his wife, a daughter of A. Lobach of Cumenhoff, near Riga, was born on 12 Dec. 1829 at Wattram in Livonia. His family were Scottish, and his great-grandfather, Captain John Elphinstone, royal navy, and admiral in the Russian navy, commanded the Russian fleet in 1770 in the victory over the Turks at the naval battle of Tchesmé Bay. He was named Howard after his uncle, Major-general Sir Howard Elphinstone [q. v.] Educated chiefly abroad, he passed out of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich at the head of his batch, and received a commission in the royal engineers as second-lieutenant on 18 Dec. 1847. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant 11 Nov. 1851, second captain 20 April 1856, brevet major 26 Dec. 1856, first captain 1 April 1862, brevet lieutenant-colonel 9 April 1868, major 5 July 1872, lieutenant-colonel 23 May 1873, brevet colonel 1 Oct. 1877, colonel 3 May 1884, and major-general 29 Jan. 1887.

After the usual course of professional study at Chatham, Elphinstone officially attended military reviews in Prussia in the summer of 1853, and afterwards was employed in the ordnance survey in Scotland until March 1854, when he went to Malta, and thence to Bulgaria and on to the Crimea. He arrived at Balaclava on 29 Sept., and was posted to the right attack under Major (afterwards Major-general Sir) William Gordon [q. v.], where he served in the trenches, his record being eighty-one days and ninety-one nights on trench duty. In the summer of 1855 he was attached to Sir Colin Campbell's division employed in strengthening the Balaclava lines, and Avon the confidence and lasting friendship of his chief (afterwards Lord Clyde).

Elphinstone rendered conspicuous services at the assault of the quarries in front of the Redan on 7 June 1855, and again at the assault of the Redan on the 18th. He was awarded the Victoria Cross on 2 June 1858 for fearless conduct on the night of the unsuccessful attack on the Redan. At the final assault on Sebastopol on 8 Sept. he was wounded by a splinter on the left side of the head and lost an eye. For his Crimean services he was twice mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 21 June and 21 Dec. 1855), and received a brevet majority, the war medal with clasp, the French legion of honour (fifth class), the Turkish order of the Mejidie (fifth class), the Turkish war medal, and a pension for his wound.

After his return to England from the Crimea, Elphinstone went in March 1856 on a mission to The Hague, and reported on a public hospital at Rotterdam, and in September to the Coblentz siege operations, his report on which was much commended. He was employed from 5 Sept. 1857 in the topographical department of the war office in compiling part i. of the siege of Sebastopol, published in 1858, a large quarto volume of the 'Journal of the Operations conducted by the Corps of Royal Engineers from the Invasion of the Crimea to the Close of the Winter Campaign, 1854-5.' He afterwards did duty in the North British military district.

On 24 Jan. 1859 he was selected by the prince consort to be governor to Prince Arthur (afterwards Duke of Connaught), then eight years old; and when the prince came of age, was appointed on 1 May 1871 treasurer and comptroller of his household, an office which he continued to hold until his death. He attended the prince at Woolwich and Chatham and accompanied him to Canada, India, the Mediterranean, and elsewhere.

In 1858 Elphinstone arranged for Prince Albert his generous gift to the officers of the army of 'the Prince Consort's Library' at Aldershot. He was made a companion of the order of the Bath, civil division, on 23 Aug. 1865, and military division on 20 May 1871; a companion of the order of St. Michael and St. George on 28 July 1870, and was promoted to be a knight commander of the order of the Bath on 3 July 1871. In June 1873 he was appointed by the Prince of Wales vice-president of the British commission of the Vienna exhibition. He commanded the royal engineer troops at Aldershot from August 1873 to March 1877, and the troops and companies to December 1881. He was appointed aide-de-camp to the queen on 1 Oct. 1877, and was colonel on the staff and commanding royal engineer at Aldershot from 31 Dec. 1881 to 30 Dec. 1886. In 1884-5 he acted temporarily as military attache at Berlin. On 1 April 1889 he was appointed to the command of the western military district.

On 8 March 1890 Elphinstone left Plymouth for Teneriffe in the steamer Tongariro on a month's leave of absence for the benefit of his health, accompanied by his wife and some of his family. In the evening of that day, when off Ushant, he accidentally fell overboard and was drowned. The search for his body proved fruitless. The 'Court Circular' of 14 March announced that the queen had received with profound grief the news of the death of one who enjoyed her entire confidence for thirty-one years. By the queen's command a memorial service was held in Exeter Cathedral on 20 March. In the Devonport garrison chapel Elphinstone is commemorated by a brass tablet and a lectern, unveiled on 8 Jan. 1894 by the Duke of Edinburgh; a memorial stained-glass window has also been placed in the chancel of St. George's Church, Aldershot, by his brother officers. A portrait of Elphinstone in oils, by Hermann Schmeichen, has been placed in the mess-room of the royal engineers at Aldershot, and a replica presented by them to Lady Elphinstone.

Elphinstone married, on 5 Dec. 1876, Annie Frances, second daughter of W. H. Cole of West Woodhay, Berkshire, and afterwards of Portland Place, London, and Giffords Hall, Suffolk. She survived her husband, with,' four daughters, for the eldest of whom, Victoria Alexandrina (b. 8 Sept. 1877), the queen stood sponsor.

[War Office Records; Royal Engineers' Records; Despatches; Royal Engineers Journal, April, May, and August 1890; Times, 14, 19, 21, and 26 March 1890; Kinglake's Invasion of the Crimea; Russell's Crimean War.]

R. H. V.