Colvin was born in Tokyo, the son of Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin, of a distinghuished family of Indian civil servants. He was educate at St Aubyn's school, and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, which he entered as a cadet in 1935. He served with the navy throughout the second world war, and was aboard the battle cruiser Repulse when it was sunk by the Japanese off Singapore in December 1942. by the end of the war he was leading a small group of guerrillas behind enemy lines in Vietnam.
He read modern languages at London University between 1949 and 1950.
His first postings were to Oslo and Vienna.
On returning to London, he played an important role in directing the covert conflict with Indonesia in Borneo.
From 1965 to 1967, he served as British consul in Hanoi.
In 1971, Colvin he was appointed ambassador to Mongolia.
He left Ulan Bator in 1974, to become political counsellor in Washington.
He retired in 1980, becoming director for international relations with the Chase Manhattan Bank in Hongkong. In this role, he worked directly for David Rockefeller providing analysis and developing high-level contacts across the Asia-Pacific region.
He later worked as a writer, reviewing for the New Statesman, the Spectator and the Economist.
- Twice Around The World (1991)
- No Ordinary Men: The Story Of The Battle Of Kohima (1994)
- Lions Of Judah (1997)
- Nomonhan (1999)
- Decisive Battles(2003)
- Admiral Sir Ragnar Colvin - Father.
- Elizabeth Anne Manifold - First wife.
- Mark Colvin - Son.
- Moranna Cazenove - Second wife.