I've always been interested in history, though it's largely been after I left the army that I've had time and inclination to read a lot of any sort. As for prestige, that's a tricky question. It's certainly regarded as a more aristocratic service for its officers, and the institution as a whole commands a degree of respect, but I don't think 'I'm a rating in the Navy' gets you any more admiration (or any less contempt) than 'I'm an NCO in the army'. As for myself, I come from a place with no seafaring tradition whatsoever, and part of what I wanted from life was a chance to test myself. I wanted to try the hardest thing I could to see if I could do it. That, I remember, is what motivated my decision to join the Paras - there's no equivalent of that in the Navy except the Royal Marines, but they don't have much presence outside traditional Navy country, so I can't say I ever weighed them up as an option. Paratroopers were the hardest men of the lot and I wanted to be one of those. To this day I'll say that the spirit of always striving to be the best at what you do is a huge influence on me.