Belfast Telegraph

Emotional final tour of barracks brings back happy memories for old soldier Jimmy

By Rebecca Black

A Royal Ulster Rifles veteran has taken a poignant final tour of the barracks in Ballymena where he once lived and later worked.

Jimmy Peters (82) from Broughshane met wife Audrey while stationed at St Patrick's Barracks and the couple brought up their son within the walls before he later worked there as a civil servant after leaving the Army.

Thousands of Royal Ulster Rifles, Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Irish soldiers have passed through the barracks during its 71 years, and it played host to American GIs during WWII.

Last week Mid and East Antrim Borough Council opened it for a final time before it is transformed by the Department for Social Development.

Jimmy was one of the first through the gates and saw his old parade ground and his former office in later life.

During his Army career Jimmy served in Cyprus, Borneo, Bahrain, Dominica, Germany and Gibraltar, and now suffers a hearing impairment because of the gunfire he was exposed to.

Jimmy said he joined up at the age of 24, but had wanted to do it earlier. "His mother lost a son during the Second World War so she said no one else was going to join, but when Jimmy was 24 he went ahead," explained Audrey.

His recruiting sergeant was her father. She laughed as she said he didn't realise the young soldier he had just recruited would become his son-in-law.

She lived mostly at St Patrick's after the marriage.

She said it was sad to see the base closed and being transformed, but added: "Life goes on."

Jimmy served until 1979 when he joined the Civil Service.

Audrey said: "He really enjoyed the Army. His father served in both World Wars as well as his uncles.

"One of his uncles died in the Battle of the Somme, so we took a bus tour of the Somme and saw where he was buried. I always say Jimmy is Army barmy.

"Then he worked at St Patrick's again as a civilian. He was 22 years in the Army, then 20 years in the Civil Service.

"I loved living in the barracks. There was wonderful cameraderie and all the passing out parades. We were separated for seven years when he was away serving, but there were some accompanied tours where I was able to go with him. Our son was born in Gilbraltar.

"Jimmy loved the tour of the barracks. It is a place full of happy memories."

St Patrick's Barracks dates back to 1937 and went on to be the home of the Royal Irish Regiment when it was formed in 1992.

It was closed in 2008 and then acquired by the Department for Social Development in 2015.

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