Review of Broken Sword

Published in Issue 5 (September/October), Letters, Volume 22

Sir,—I feel that I must respond to Dr Timothy Bowman’s comments in his review of my biography of Brigadier General F. P. Crozier, Broken Sword (HI 22.4, July/Aug. 2014). He describes me as a ‘popular’ historian, a term often used by academics to describe those who work in the same field but lack Ph.Ds. I have always felt that they use the term rather disparagingly and wonder whether Dr Bowman employs it in this spirit. If he does not, then fine. I am happy to be described as popular in that my books are read.

He takes me to task for relying too much on Crozier’s own writings, when I made plain in my introduction that I was only too aware that he was often economical with the truth. I did point out, however, that his own autobiography, Impressions and Recollections, was more reliable than I expected and it was mainly this source that I used, but only when it was necessary. I am, I feel, an experienced enough military historian (and have been in the game considerably longer than Dr Bowman) to know what rings true and what does not. Also, since no Crozier papers in any form survive today, there are inevitably gaps in the story that only his own writings can fill, albeit only partially with confidence. Perhaps Dr Bowman could tell me how I could have overcome the problem?

Dr Bowman also accuses me of ‘failure to understand the wider context in which Crozier was operating’. He gives only one example—Crozier’s command of ADRIC [Auxiliaries] during the Troubles. Here my main crime appears to be not using a sufficient number of published sources. Yet I did not set out to write a history of the Troubles, only my subject’s part in them, and hence selected just a few reputable works from which to grasp the background. Besides which, I drew much of my material covering this phase of Crozier’s life from primary sources in the National Archives, Kew. Furthermore, I referenced the Cairo Gang website only once in my source notes, not more, as he claims. In any event, that website contains much painstaking and accurate research. Since Dr Bowman fails to specify in what ways I have misunderstood the overall context, I am no wiser.

Finally, his closing paragraph is approaching a personal attack on me in the insinuation that maybe much of the archival material was obtained by my friend Mike Taylor, whose current Ph.D is on Crozier as a brigade commander. Yes, some, but only some, was. But, as I made plain in the Introduction, I also passed him material that I had found. If Dr Bowman wishes it, I will tell him precisely from which archives I obtained material via Mike Taylor; I am not ashamed of it.

Dr Bowman gives a pretty good potted history of Crozier’s life. If, however, he had spent more time discussing my interpretation of Crozier’s actions, I—and possibly others—might have learned something.—Yours etc.,

CHARLES MESSENGER
London

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