War Hero In My Family

Lord Paddy Ashdown

A former Royal Marine, intelligence officer and politician from a proud military family, Lord Paddy Ashdown seeks to trace the history of his father John.

Lord Paddy Ashdown

A former Royal Marine, intelligence officer and politician, Lord Paddy Ashdown comes from a proud military family.

Between 1959 and 1972, Paddy served as a Royal Marines Officer and saw active service as a Commando Officer in Borneo and the Persian Gulf. After undertaking Special Forces Training in England in 1965, he commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East. In 1967 he travelled to Hong Kong, where he undertook a full-time course in Chinese; on his return to England in 1970, he was given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.

After leaving the Royal Marines for a role with the Foreign Office between 1972 and 1976, during which he took responsibility for Britain's relations with a number of United Nations organisations, Paddy spent five years working in local industry in the Yeovil area. In 1981 he accepted a job with the Dorset County Council Youth Services, where he was responsible for initiatives to help the young unemployed.

Paddy stood as the Liberal Parliamentary candidate for the Yeovil constituency in 1979, raising the Liberal vote there to its highest ever level. After entering Parliament in the 1983 General Elections, he was appointed as the Liberal spokesman on Trade and Industry Affairs within the Liberal/SDP Alliance team at the House of Commons. Having become Education spokesman in January 1987, Paddy was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrats in July 1988 and was appointed Privy Councillor on 1 January 1989.

Paddy stood down as leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1999, retiring from the Commons in 2001. He was made a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2000 and a peer in 2001. Lord Ashdown was also awarded the GCMG in the 2006 New Year's Honours List, for his work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he was one of the leading advocates for decisive action by the international community.

Paddy's story

In War Hero In My Family, Paddy traces the wartime experiences of his father, John Ashdown, who commanded a unique army unit: the 32nd animal transport company, part of the Indian army.

In France, Paddy follows in the footsteps of his father’s unit, which joined the British Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of World War II. His research reveals that his father played a vital role in the dramatic evacuation of Dunkirk. Surrounded by German troops and trapped on the beaches and harbour, many soldiers lost their lives, but the retreat ultimately paved the way for the Allies’ future victory.