Ross Laidlaw was born in Aberdeen and educated at The King\'s School (founded 676 by St Etheldreda and refounded 1540 by Henry VIII) and Cambridge University where he read history. He worked and travelled extensively in Southern Africa, and on his return to Britain taught Geography and Science before becoming an archivist. Ross is a qualified archery instructor and currently lives in East Lothian. His new book, Theoderic is out this month.

What are you doing at the moment?

I\'m doing research for a novel about Justinian - the East Roman Emperor - who codified Roman Law (the basis of Scots Law) and recovered most of the West Roman Empire which had fallen to barbarians.

When did you get hooked on history and why?

In 1983 after reading The Book of Guns and Gunsmiths by North and Hogg, I wondered if a Renaissance machine gun might have been possible …This led to my writing The Linton Porcupine, set in the time of Henry VIII.

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

King Alfred - so much more than a successful war leader, he laid the foundations for a law-abiding England with a rich intellectual and religious culture.

What is your favourite war film?
Gladiator - it\'s not strictly a war film, but the opening scene showing the attack on the Germans is a classic battle sequence - tremendously exciting and gripping.

Why do you think Military History is important?

Its study can pay dividends. \'Stormin\' Norman\' copied the tactics of Scipio Africanus vs. Hannibal with great profit in the first Gulf War.

What is your favourite quote from history/historical quote?

“The die is cast” - Julius Caesar\'s comment on crossing the Rubicon implied that by this, apparently, small action he was committing himself to a civil war for master of the Roman world.

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

The Spitfire - its speed and manoeuvrability gave it an edge over German fighters helping us win the Battle of Britain.

Best military cock-up in history?

When Marcus Licinius Crassus rashly took on the Parthians. He was routed by their favourite tactic - reigned flight followed by encirclement by their deadly horse-archers.

Who is your military hero?

Robert the Bruce - without his efforts Scotland would have lost her nationhood and, in the words of Scott, “Sunk to a species of Northumberland”.

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

The army of Alexander the Great versus that Aulus Plautius which invaded Britain in 43 AD. Macedonian phalanx vs. Roman legion would be an epic contest between two superbly efficient fighting machines.

Elephants or horses? Discuss the pros and cons…

Elephants, though terrifying to an enemy, were more difficult to control than horses and, if panicked, could wreak havoc against their own side. Cavalry charges, unless opposed by a steady wall of spears, were devastating.

Favourite Michael Caine quote?

“Sounds like a train.” I think this was said by Michael Caine (or was it Stanley Baker?) in the film Zulu. He\'s referring to the distant sound of marching feet as the Zulu army approaches.

What is your favourite war comic?

I seem to remember a series called Commando Comics - “Achtung Schweinhund!”, “Donner und Blitzen!” - splendid stuff.

Spartan or Roman?

Although both people shared a heroic doggedness, the Spartans\' narrowness of vision and tiny powerbase led to extinction, whereas Roman adaptability and inclusiveness resulted in a superpower.

What is your favourite Osprey book?

Warrior 9: Late Roman Infantryman AD 236-565. The accurate and spirited illustrations give a commendably vivid picture of Roman soldiers and their opponents. The text is admirably clear, informative, and well-researched, the Bibliography section especially useful. I found this book, and other Osprey titles (such as Late Roman Cavalryman) invaluable when researching my novels Attila and the forthcoming Theoderic.


To celebrate the release of Theoderic, Ross Laidlaw has arranged an exclusive Osprey reader discount offer. Osprey fans can get £2 off the retail price of £9.99. If you are in the UK you will also get free postage and packing. All you need to do to claim the discount is to call Booksource on 0845 370 0067 and quote the reference OS708. Enjoy!

Theodoric 5