From Sparky to Boney
David Chandler describes his first encounters with matters military that led him to abandon his plans to join the clergy to become a military historian.
Why did I become a young military historian? To ask such a question is rather like asking Pontius Pilate to define ‘truth’ (while ‘laughing’ – according to Lord Francis Bacon’s comment). I suppose that most historians (if worthy of their proper salt) face up to the correct knowledge of the past – something I have truly loved over my last sixty-six years; although I cannot claim honestly for the first four years of my life. But I was already ‘hooked’ whether I liked it or not by the time I reached five.
My very first introduction to matters military was at the age of four, when a visiting friend gave me a wind-up tin tank that could clamber over small books on the ground while spitting out flashes. (I can see it in my mind, and I can still smell it too). My late father, a clergyman in East Yorkshire near the coast, had lost a leg as a junior officer in the 6th Essex Regiment in early 1918. Understandably, my mother was not impressed with military matters: fortunately for me, their only child, my father was more realistic.
There was an interesting argument between my parents about the tank – and to my surprise my mother won the battle. She announced that I could only keep the horrible thing if it was called ‘Sparky’ and not a tank. As a result I became more fascinated by the toy. It became my favourite – but only to be played with when mother was elsewhere.