We were greatly saddened to learn of the death at 77 of Lord Ashdown of Norton-Sub-Hamdon; and, on a day of tributes from so many big names in the political world, this homage is based simply on our shared passion for Second World War history.
Even before the Charity was founded some of our future team members and colleagues had already been helping Paddy Ashdown with his research for A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of WW2.
Trustee Paul McCue recalls that “On meeting Paddy Ashdown, you immediately felt the charisma and strength of personality that made him such a political heavyweight. His former lives, in the special forces and intelligence service, made it almost inevitable that he would be interested in, and supportive of, our charity's activities and he became an authoritative author in our line of work. “In 2011 I was particularly impressed with how he had taken pains to track down and interview Suzanne Léglise, née Duboué, the wartime girlfriend of Captain Victor Hayes of French Section, SOE.
"Suzanne had served the Résistance and SOE with great bravery, from the early age of 17, and had managed to survive capture by the Germans and subsequent deportation to Ravensbrück concentration camp.
“Thanks to Paddy finding her, she eventually received a little of the limelight and credit that she received."
(Photo courtesy of Nice Matin)
Paddy Ashdown would participate in several of the Charity's public engagement initiatives, the first of which was just before the publication of his Vercors book The Cruel Victory: The French Resistance, D-Day and the Battle for the Vercors 1944 when he took part in the Recounting Resistance event at the University of Sussex in May 2014.
Fellow speakers included the novelist Kate Mosse (Citadel), the Secret WW2 co-founder Martyn Cox, and the intelligence historian Michael Smith (Bletchley Park and D-Day).
Linked to the same book, Paddy flew to Lyon in June 2016 to join a French Resistance/SOE tour arranged for Historical Trips by Martyn Cox - “Having Paddy as the guest lecturer and guide for the Vercors section of my group’s week-long itinerary meant that I was merely the support act for the days he was with us! “It’s clear from the photos how much energy and enthusiasm he put in, and it was a terrific experience for every member of the touring party."
“Another lasting memory of that tour is due to it having ended just before the Brexit referendum ... this inevitably meant that more of Paddy's energy went into some very passionate non-WW2 discussions with the tour clients during our evening meals!”
Paddy’s next book, Game of Spies: The Secret Agent, the Traitor and the Nazi, Bordeaux 1942, was published later that year.
This coincided with the Charity's 'Brighton’s Secret Agents' initiative and so he kindly agreed to appear at The Royal Pavilion, Brighton for the week's closing event.
“Meet the Author: An Evening with Paddy Ashdown” was arranged by Martyn Cox with the help of Paddy's research assistant Sylvie Young (centre photos) and was promoted under the Charity's banner in partnership with the University of Sussex and City Books.
Everyone involved with Secret WW2 who knew Paddy Ashdown has been extremely grateful for his friendship and behind-the-scenes support, and one of his contributions is still to be realised. Paddy lent his name and influence to ensure that the autobiography of a French SOE agent will also be published in English - and SOE Hero: Bob Maloubier and the French Resistance will be available in early 2019.
Paddy Ashdown’s final book has only recently been published.
Nein!: Standing up to Hitler 1935–1944 has been described by his publisher as “a revelatory new history of German opposition to Hitler ...
"In his last days, Adolf Hitler raged in his bunker that he had been betrayed by his own people, defeated from the inside. In part, he was right. By 1945, his armies were being crushed on all fronts, his regime collapsing with many fleeing retribution for their crimes. Yet, even before the war started, there were Germans very high in Hitler’s command committed to bringing about his death and defeat.
"Paddy Ashdown tells, for the first time, the story of those at the very top of Hitler’s Germany who tried first to prevent the Second World War and then to deny Hitler victory. Based on newly released files, the repeated attempts of the plotters to warn the Allies about Hitler’s plans are revealed. It is a matter of record that the European Union we have today and the nature and central position of Germany within it, is, in very large measure, the future envisaged by the plotters and for which they gave their lives."
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, GCMG, CH, KBE, PC
born 27 February 1941 - died 22 December 2018
Paddy Ashdown obituary:
Political figures celebrate Paddy Ashdown's energy, bravery and humour
Paddy Ashdown: a political life in pictures
Images courtesy of Martyn Cox - Louisa Russell - University of Sussex - Nice Matin - William Collins - Aurum Press