AN 84-YEAR-old former soldier who is the oldest person to graduate from Blackburn College’s University Centre has given an insight into army life through his degree work.
And now former Regimental Sergeant Major James Alan Beet will have his pictures displayed at a military museum.
After decades away from education, James, from Burnley, joined the University Centre to study fine art.
And as part of a project to gain his BA (Hons) Fine Art (Integrated Media), James used photographs from his time in the army in India, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, Germany and Hong Kong and Somalia for inspiration.
Following an exhibition of his screen print pieces of work at the college’s annual art show, James have been offered a space to display his works at Military Museum, Preston, from September 10.
James, who returned to education aged 81 years after his wife Jennie died in 2006 aged 79, said: “I returned to education because I had needed to fill my time.
“I decided to study a Fine Art degree at the college as it is an integrated media course, which meant I was able to use my old photographs in an artistic way.
“I have led a very colourful life and been fortunate to travel the world ten times over.
"It is nice to express what I’ve seen and experienced in a emotive and practical way.
"In essence I wanted to create my own piece of art history.
“These past years have been extremely fun and a great accomplishment.
"I am now studying my post-graduate teaching qualification so I can hopefully teach art therapy in care homes.”
James joined the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment aged 17 as a Private and worked his way up through the ranks before leaving the army in 1966 as a Regimental Sergeant Major.
He was stationed in barracks in Blackburn as well as Fulwood during his army career.
Notably, James took down the British flag on top of Fort William in Calcutta in India to mark the end of the British Raj when the partition began.
And, as part of the Palestinian conflict, he successfully co-ordinated the transport of ammunitition on a train from Palestine to Egypt despite constant threats it would be derailed and robbed by bandits.
James developed an interest in photography and art in India and bought a Brownie camera to capture images on trip away from the army base.
After 1966 he joined the probation service before retiring.
But, after he retired, he enrolled into Nelson and Colne College where he completed a number of courses, including computing.
After the death of his wife and a hip replacement, he decided to fulfil an ambition and gain a degree.
After three years of study he gained a 2.2.
John Harrison, head of arts, humanities and social sciences, said: “When James came to study his degree we jumped at the chance to have him as a student at the college.
“His final year project is testament to the effort he has put into his work and we wish him all the very best in his teaching qualification.”
Helen Mathers, dean of higher education, said: “We always encourage anyone who wants to get back into learning, whatever their age, to come and see us.
"Our flexible timetables mean that students can fit studying around their commitments and busy lives.”