A NEWTOWNARDS army officer received a special gift from the Duke of Cambridge, when he and the Duchess of Cambridge visited Belize during their tour of the Caribbean last week.

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Nichols, of the Irish Guards, is currently commander of the British Army Training and Support Unit (BATSBUB) in Price Barracks in Belize.

As a Sergeant Major, Lt Col. Nicols trained both Princes William and Harry during their time at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, from 2005 to 2007. Lt Col. Nichols leaves the regular army in October, after 38 years’ service, and to mark the occasion, he was presented with a personal gift by the Duke, who is Regimental Colonel of the Irish Guards.

 Lt Col. Nichols will hand over command in Belize on April 22, after three years running the British Army’s Jungle Warfare Training. He will return to Northern Ireland to serve his last six months in the Irish Guards before retiring.

During his three year tour of duty in Belize, Lt Col. Nichols was joined for much of that time by his wife, Kellie, and their daughters, Pennie, Makyla, Ellie and Pippa. He reveals his tour of duty during a remarkable military career has seen him ‘contend with’ a variety of situations, including a tsunami, three earthquakes, three hurricanes, a fatal helicopter crash, an outbreak of Dengue fever, and, while in Belize, ‘the Covid-19 pandemic, locked down in an austere, isolated location, 5,500 miles from the UK’. Of his forthcoming retirement, the officer says: “ I am hoping for a quieter life on the Ards peninsula, with my friends and family.”