AFTER a 45-year army career and on his 60th birthday, Warrant Officer Class 1 Brian Stoddart, pictured, from Salisbury, has packed his uniform away and is looking forward to retirement.

Mr Stoddart now lives in Amesbury, but was born and brought up in Woodfalls, joining the army in 1969 aged 15 as a Junior Leader in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps at Blackdown in Surrey.

“I don’t come from a military family,” he said, “but I had two uncles who fought in World War Two, one for the British Army and one for the German Army.”

He was trained as a staff clerk and was posted to a headquarters in Germany. He returned to the UK in 1973, being posted to HQ 3rd Division in Bulford.

He then went back to Germany and was promoted to sergeant.

In 1981 he volunteered to join the British Military Advisory and Training Team in Zimbabwe, helping to establish the Zimbabwean National Army Staff College.

Brian also volunteered for Loan Service, learned Arabic and spent almost two years in Oman as the personal assistant to the Chief of Staff. He was promoted to warrant officer and ran the Commander in Chief’s private office at HQ Land in Wilton.

He completed his regular career as a WO1 and personal assistant to the GOC of 3rd Division in Bulford, retiring in 1994.

He then joined the Territorial Army, serving as the chief clerk to 1 WESSEX in Devizes. He volunteered to serve in Bosnia and was posted to Banja Luka. For his service there he was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service.

He saw service in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Kosovo as well as a number of demanding posts in the UK, and in 2012 was mobilised to help with the Olympics. His last posting was as a unit welfare officer at Upavon.

“Putting my uniform in the dhobi bag on Friday was a strange feeling,” he said.

“Knowing that I would never wear it again. I will use the boots again, though.”

How did he sum up his 45-year career with the army?

“Well, it is all about opportunity and achievement - if you want to reach your full potential, then you can.

“Many people have never been tested before, and I would encourage any young person to join, even if only for three or four years, to learn about themselves.”

Married to Jill, they have two children, Naomi, 24, and 21-yearold Samuel, both serving in the army.

“I really enjoyed my time,” he added. “There were good and not so good postings, but I was able to see the army as a whole and had a wonderful life.”