By psmiddy, Dec 23 2018 05:51PM
I had one or two interactions with this man, who has left this earth far too early. About 10 years ago I invited him to talk at my club, about one of his recent books. This was, I think, his volume on the Cockleshell Heroes raid. This book launched a successful second career for Ashdown as a military historian. He was a very engaging speaker, which is more can be said for many of our current parliamentarians. He had, of course, a very interesting ‘hinterland’, having worked as a Marine, and then a spy before arriving at Westminster after a tough by-election at Yeovil. Unsurprisingly this made him more grounded, and gave him more authority, than many of the current batch who have eased into Westminster from a role as SPAD straight after university.
In his semi-retirement role as military historian, his background gave him an understanding of the challenges of command; he did not lack for intellectual curiosity, and he wrote with both wit and pace.
As he said in his autobiography, he was:
”a soldier at the end of the golden age of imperial soldiering; a spy at the end of the golden age of spying; a politician when politics was still a calling; and an international peace builder backed by a western power, before Iraq and Afghanistan drained the West of both influence and mortality.”
I very much enjoyed his last volume – Nein! – about German resistors, which I read and reviewed here earlier this year. I would love to know what project he was working on before he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in October. His work in Bosnia demonstrated he was the right man for that (very difficult) job.
It is difficult to avoid being enveloped in sadness that we have lost a great author and rather unique politician.