Terry Crowdy has an unconventional background for a historian. Former bassist in a rock group, and a history enthusiast since childhood, he has long been fascinated by different aspects of military history and takes great pleasure in delving into obscure sources to pluck out the most astonishing and revealing stories throughout history. The author of a number of articles and books, including The Enemy Within: A History of Espionage, he lives in Kent, UK.
When did you get hooked on history and why?
My mother taught me to read from a book called Famous Names, an illustrated book with biographies of famous historical figures. At the time we lived on the ninth floor of a concrete tower block in north London, so I suppose the pageantry and excitement of these famous lives captivated my imagination early on. It\'s just something I\'ve always been excited by for as long as I can remember.
If you were any warrior from history who would you be?
My wife told me to say \'Joan of Arc for the frocks\'. In terms of heroic bravery, I would have to go for the Eagle bearer of Caesar\'s tenth legion, who leapt off the ship and advanced up the beach towards the Britons so that his comrades would either have to follow him or watch their standard fall into enemy hands. I bet his mates hated him for doing that.
What is your favourite war film?
It used to be Kelly\'s Heroes, but now I\'d probably opt for The Battle of Britain. Last time I watched the DVD I found myself cheering every time a German bomber was shot down. I\'m not sure that was very PC, but …
Why do you think Military History is important?
So we learn from the mistakes of the past and hopefully stop fighting pointless wars. That said, I think the study of military history shows us sometimes wars must be fought, no matter what the cost. For example by continuing to fight the Nazis in 1940, Britain ultimately lost its Empire and ended up teetering on the brink of bankruptcy: but how would Churchill have been viewed by history if he had done a deal with Hitler?
What is your favourite quote from history/historical quote?
An old favourite comes from the Battle of Eylau in 1807. Noticing some of his horse grenadiers were ducking shells, Colonel Lepic shouted: “Heads up, by God! Those are bullets - not turds.”
If you could fly any plane or drive any tank from history, which would it be?
Best military cock-up in history?
Surely you mean \'worst\'? I think Isandlwana probably comes out tops. Old Lord Chelmsford was so busy looking for the Zulu army he ignored the reports it was actually attacking his camp. That said, Custer comes a very close second at the Little Bighorn.
Who is your military hero?
Alexander the Great was a self-obsessed drunk; Napoleon was a greedy little fellow, Wellington was a snob, and General Lee was a loser. With this in mind I think Patton wins this one for me. He was a throwback to another time, a great student of military history and someone who, I think, behind all the showmanship truly understood the art of war.
If you could pit two armies from history against each other, which two would you pick, and why?
If you could even up the numbers I\'d like to see how the English army at Agincourt fared against Napoleon\'s soldiers at Waterloo . People are always going on about how longbows were more effective than muskets and I\'d like to put it to the test. I\'d love it if the English still came out on top.
Elephants or horses? Discuss the pros and cons…
I don\'t know. Can you eat elephants? You can eat horses when things start to go bad.
Favourite Michael Caine quote?
From Zulu : \'Front rank … fire!\'
What is your favourite war comic?
Spartan or Roman?
In terms of cool, the Spartans win hands down for me. Thermopylae is one of the most iconic events in world history, let alone military history, but I wish more would be said about the Battle of Plataea the following year in 479 BC. This is when the full Spartan army of 45,000 turned up, not just a bodyguard of 300. That must have been quite a sight for the Persians.
What is your favourite Osprey book?
I really should use this as an opportunity to plug my latest one for Osprey: Military Misdemeanours. It\'s a collection of mostly true, short tales for bedtime about when heroes go wrong. That said, the first one I bought was Napoleon\'s Light Infantry by Philip Haythornthwaite … I have fond memories of that book.