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Dunkirk veteran Jim celebrates 100th birthday with Moderator

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Jim Brennan with Dr Henry and Whitehouse minister Stephen Lowry

Jim Brennan with Dr Henry and Whitehouse minister Stephen Lowry

Jim in uniform during his Army days

Jim in uniform during his Army days

Jim Brennan with Dr Henry and Whitehouse minister Stephen Lowry

A war veteran who turned 100 received a visit from the Presbyterian Church leader.

Moderator Dr William Henry met Jim Brennan at Rylands Nursing home in Kells, Co Antrim, to help him celebrate his special birthday.

He was joined by the Reverend Stephen Lowry of Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, where Jim was a long-time member and elder, and by family members and friends.

Mr Brennan was one of a family of 11 children and was born in the Shore Road area of north Belfast.

His father, who was employed at a local bleach works, had served in the First World War, and Jim carried on the family tradition during the Second World War by serving as a sergeant with the Eighth Belfast Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (22nd Battery).

He was with the regiment during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz.

During one German air raid in London his unit was posted to London Bridge. He said afterwards: "German incendiary bombs fell all around us like hailstones."

One of the Eighth Regiment's targets was German reconnaissance planes, but one of the hazards facing Jim and his colleagues was the danger also of shooting down RAF aircraft.

The regiment also served in France, and theirs was the only heavy weapons saved from the Dunkirk-Cherbourg areas of fierce conflict during the evacuation of British forces.

Before the final withdrawal, the Eighth Regiment made a forced diversion towards Le Havre and encountered German advance troops. The Eighth Belfast decided to avoid a pitched battle and retreated swiftly. Fortunately, the Germans decided not to follow in pursuit.

After his service in France Jim was later posted to Burma, where he served under Lord Mountbatten. After the war he became a partner in a supply business, which suffered attacks by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles.

Mr Brennan was a regular worshipper at Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, where he served on the Kirk Session and the Church Committee.

He rarely, if ever, talked about the war, but while he remained fit to do so he laid a wreath at the church war memorial plaque inside the building on Remembrance Sunday. His wife Beth also made a significant contribution to Whitehouse. She died in 2016.

Rev Lowry, who shared in the 100th birthday celebrations with the moderator and mayor of Mid East Antrim Maureen Morrow, said: "As the minister of Whitehouse Presbyterian Church it was a great privilege to be among Jim's family and friends as we celebrated his 100th birthday.

"It was a joyful experience to bring him the love, prayer and blessings of his church family who hold him, and his late wife Beth, with such fondness and high esteem."

Mr Brennan's niece Ann Lockhart was also at the birthday party.

She said: "Uncle Jim is a good man and very well-liked.

"He was always good to all the family and to me. It was great to be able to celebrate his 100th birthday."

Belfast Telegraph