Lord Ashdown becomes patron of Maldon military museum
The former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown has become a patron of a military museum in Essex.
The ex-Royal Marine has given his backing to the Combined Military Services Museum in Maldon.
He said he learned of the private collection while researching for a book to mark the 70th anniversary of the Cockleshell Heroes raid of WWII.
Lord Ashdown said: "This is a treasure trove for anyone interested in military paraphernalia."
He added: "[Owner] Richard Wooldridge and his staff have created a fantastic museum and I love to come here because it's as good as you'd find at the Imperial War Museum.
"It's arguably one of Maldon's jewels of tourism and we she should be making a lot more of it if we can."
Items in the collection date back to the 14th Century and include artefacts from the Army, navy, the Royal Air Force, the English Civil War, secret services and special forces.
Lord Ashdown said he had been amazed when he first visited the museum.
He said: "In Britain we have an extraordinary capacity for individuals making a difference. This is not supported by the state or council, it's just a private enthusiast.
"Yet he has accumulated a museum which is at the forefront of any in Britain, tucked away here in Maldon almost out of sight."
A former special forces soldier, Lord Ashdown said he became aware of the museum because of its MKII Cockle Canoe.
Research is taking place to discover if the boat was one of the actual ones used in an infamous raid on German cargo ships in Bordeaux harbour in 1942.
He said: "You just can't beat seeing the actual piece of kit. The founding raid of my unit was this [the raid], it's where it all began."