Lynn Brittney is the author of the Nathan Fox series of books, published by Macmillan. The hero, Nathan Fox, is a boy-actor in the same company as Will Shakespeare. Recruited into Walsingham\'s fledgling secret service, he is sent to a School of Defence run by Master Robey. Here he is taught sword fighting, the use of daggers, archery, riding and code breaking. His first mission is to Venice, partnering England\'s foremost agent John Pearce. There they become involved in a sea battle against the Turks, led by the formidable General Othello. Nathan\'s second mission, in the book Traitor\'s Gold, is to the Netherlands, where he becomes involved with the Dutch Sea Beggars and the land-based Freebooters. Their mission is to intercept a consignment of Spanish Gold, being transported along the Spanish Road, and thus cause the Spanish Army in the Netherlands to mutiny. Book 3, still being written, is about the invasion of the Spanish Armada, and an incidental adventure in Ireland involving Irish pirates and Scottish gallowglass mercenaries.

Lynn\'s previous writing career spans many years and covers many avenues of writing. She has written about 14 non-fiction books, amongst which are three of the children\'s Treasure Chest series of interactive history books - her contribution being Ancient Rome; Ancient Greece and The Holy Lands.

What are you doing at the moment?

I am currently writing the third Nathan Fox book which is set at the time of the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada. I\'m taking it slowly, as it is important to get it right. I\'m halfway through the book now and I hope to have it finished by shortly.

When did you get hooked on history and why?

I\'ve always been passionate about history and I guess that is because I was steeped in military history and pageantry from childhood. My father was in the Coldstream Guards for 22 years. We lived in the centre of London for most of that time. Many of his friends were Yeoman Warders at the Tower. I guess I went to at least ten Trooping the Colour. I attended a school in Victoria that was endowed by Queen Anne and we went to monthly services at Westminster Abbey. With a background like that it is rather difficult not to be interested in history.

If you were any warrior from history who would you be?

I have a sneaking regard for anyone who was able to run rings around the Roman Army. It\'s a difficult choice between Attila the Hun and Spartacus because they both learnt their techniques from the Romans and improved upon them. I guess, on balance, I would have to say Attila, because he placed no horizons on his ambition. An altogether awesome historical figure.

What is your favourite war film?

I think, after much deliberation, it would have to be the original “All Quiet on the Western Front” with Lew Ayres. It is so rare to see a truly moving film that shows the German point of view. The only thing that has come close to it was “Das Boot”. Although they are both, technically, anti-war films, I think that they show the true heroism of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.

Why do you think Military History is important?

Because I think that each generation needs to provide heroes as role models for the next generation. This is something that has been sadly lacking in the world since WWII. I also think that military history is a doorway to so many other interests - science, technology, medicine. It cannot be denied that some of the greatest inventions and discoveries have come to us in times of war.

What is your favourite quote from history/historical quote?

One that makes me smile because of its prophetic nature. In 1898 Prince Bismark said “If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damn silly thing in the Balkans.”

If you could fly any plane or drive any tank from history, which would it be?

Although I would be absolutely terrified, I think I would have liked to have flown a Fokker Dr.1 Imagine flying something that was basically plywood decking covered in fabric at its maximum speed of 117mph? Manfred von Richthofen must have been insane!

Best military cock-up in history?

Because I am up to my eyes in the relevant research at the moment, it has to be, for me, the Spanish Armada. What a desperate miscalculation that all was on the part of the Spanish. The biggest fleet the world had ever seen which was comprised of ships that were too big and slow for Atlantic warfare; overloaded with soldiers because the Spanish were used to hand-to-hand fighting at close quarters; old-fashioned muzzle loading cannon with no dedicated gun crews; victuals that were rotten before they left Lisbon; a commander who had no naval experience and suffered from disabling seasickness; mass sickness amongst the crew; the non-appearance of reinforcements from the Spanish Army in the Netherlands and the filthiest weather God ever sent to a sea battle. I could add much more but I would take up too much space!

Who is your military hero?

Well, with reference to the above it has to be Sir Francis Drake. A complete renegade with a pure pirate\'s heart. He must have been hell to work with because he almost never obeyed orders but he was a genius tactician. He brought guerrilla warfare to the sea and his battle tactics against the Armada were just brilliant.

If you could pit two armies from history against each other, which two would you pick, and why?

Mm. Tough one. I think I would have liked to see the army of Alexander the Great against the army of Napoleon. Two massive egos, both bent on world domination, it would have been interesting to see how that one played out. Despite Napoleon\'s superior artillery, his army was slow in the field and a slave to its supply lines. I\'m willing to bet that the sheer audacity and cunning of Alexander the Great and the speed at which his army could move would have eventually won the day. Also, Alexander would never have been so stupid as to try and invade Russia with winter coming on.

Elephants or horses? Discuss the pros and cons…

Elephants - the living tanks of ancient warfare. Impossible to stop when they charged. Could carry several men on their backs. Hard to kill with spears and swords and they could trample and crush any infantry in their path. However, I understand that they are difficult to control.
Horses - wonderful animals but very vulnerable in the melee. Very fast, of course, but slower when carrying a man in full armour. Also, when the horse is brought down, a man in full armour has to struggle to get up and, if he\'s not wearing full armour, he runs the risk of being rolled on or pinned under the horse when it is felled. En masse, in a cavalry charge, against infantry that is not carrying guns, I suppose they are formidable. Also, a horse ridden by a Cossack, a Mongolian or a Magyar was highly maneouverable

Favourite Michael Caine quote?

As Lt.Gonville Bromhead in Zulu, “Well when you take command, old boy, you\'re on your own.One of the first things that the general - my grandfather - ever taught me.”

What is your favourite war comic?

That\'s a difficult question to answer, being female, as I didn\'t really read war comics. However, I do remember my father coming home once (when he was in charge of the cells at the Central London Recruiting Depot in Whitehall) with a load of Sgt. Rock comics he had confiscated from a prisoner. I quite enjoyed those.

Spartan or Roman?

If I could be convinced that all Spartans looked like Gerard Butler then I would definitely vote for them. However, I find the Spartans to be such unbelievably single-minded fighting machines as to make them almost like creations of Marvel Comics - creatures with super-powers and very little humanity. It would have to be the Romans because their conquering armies at least carried an equal measure of civilised culture along with any harsh repression shown towards the conquered peoples.

What is your favourite Osprey book? 

Whatever one I need for my research! At the moment “The Spanish Galleon” by Angus Konstam is by my side at all times. Also, “The Armada Campaign”. My copy of “Elizabethan Sea Dogs” is so dog-eared (no pun intended) that I may have to get a new one. When I was writing my last book, I found “Matchlock Musketeer” a great help.


Lynn Brittney is offering all Osprey Publishing fans an exclusive discount and offer on her Nathan Fox books. Visit this link to be able to purchase signed copies of the books for £4.50 each.