Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 17:31 GMT
From action man to MP
Paddy Ashdown: Commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East
Paddy Ashdown was born Jeremy John Durham Ashdown in New Delhi on 27 February 1941, the eldest of seven children.
He comes from a family of soldiers and colonial administrators who spent their lives in India, but when he was four-years-old, his family returned to Britain to buy a farm in Northern Ireland.
He went to Bedford School in England where his Irish accent earned him his nickname Paddy.
Between 1959 and 1972 he served as a Royal Marines Officer and saw active service as a Commando Officer in Borneo and the Persian Gulf.
After Special Forces Training in England in 1965, he commanded a Special Boat Section in the Far East.
A gifted linguist, he went to Hong Kong in 1967 to undertake a full-time course in Chinese, returning to England in 1970. He was then given command of a Commando Company in Belfast.
In 1972 Mr Ashdown left the Royal Marines and joined the Foreign Office. He was posted to the British Mission to the United Nations in Geneva where he was responsible for Britain's relations with a number of United Nations organisations and took part in the negotiation of several international treaties and agreements between 1974 and 1976.
After leaving the Foreign Office Mr Ashdown worked in local industry in the Yeovil area between 1976 and 1981, firstly with the Westlands Group (Normalair Garrett) and then with Morlands' Yeovil-based subsidiary called Tescan.
Tescan closed down in 1981 and, after a short period of unemployment, Mr Ashdown got a job as a youth worker with Dorset County Council Youth Service, where he was responsible for initiatives to help the young unemployed.
He stood as the Liberal candidate for Yeovil in 1979 and raised the Liberal vote to the highest ever level. He then fought the 1983 election in Yeovil and won with a 3,600 majority.
Shortly after entering Parliament, he was appointed as the Liberal spokesman on Trade and Industry Affairs within the Liberal/SDP Alliance team at the House of Commons.
He became education spokesman in January 1987. In the 1987 election, he increased his majority to nearly 6,000 and was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats in July 1988.
He was appointed as a Privy Councillor on 1 January 1989. In the 1997 General Election he further increased his majority to more than 11,000
He is married to Jane and they have two children.