TRIBUTES have been paid to a “humble” and “kind” distinguished military figure and community stalwart from Thornbury who has died aged 94. 

Barrie Keast - who died on May 17 - has been described by his family as a “hardworking” and “inspirational” figure.

Born in 1930, Barrie’s life was intertwined with the noble call of duty from an early age - he joined the British Army aged just 14 .

A member of the Thornbury community for nearly four decades, the grandfather-of-ten was also part of Thornbury Methodist Church and Thornbury Choral Society.

On top of this, he was a governor at St Peter’s Primary School in Pilning.

During his lifetime, Barrie worked for BAE Systems in Filton and was also active in the Avon and Severnside Branch of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

At his funeral on June 14 at Thornbury Methodist Church, his coffin was draped with the flag of his former regiment, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

Barrie Keast joined the British Army aged just 14 and rose through the ranks to became a colonel (Image: Supplied)

"An inspiration"

Speaking to the Gazette this week, Barrie’s son Andrew said: “Dad was kind, determined, skilled and humble.

“He respected others for who they were and believed in earning respect, even with his status in the Army.

“I am what I am today in large part because of dad, and for that, I will always be truly grateful. 

“You were and always will be an inspiration.”

Barrie was the son of a bus driver and a cleaner and moved from the Cornish town of St Austell to become a boy soldier.

After completing a three-year apprenticeship at the Army Apprentices School in Arborfield, Berkshire, he rose through the ranks of the British Army, eventually becoming a colonel. 

He lived in a variety of locations across the world including Germany, Australia and the Outer Hebrides - off the west coast of mainland Scotland.

Mr Keast was also the only Arborfield apprentice in history to return to the training establishment as colonel commandant.

Barrie was married to Margaret, a music teacher, for more than 60 years, and the pair had four sons.

(Image: Supplied)

(Image: Supplied)

Following Margaret’s death, he married Dorothy Cox, a fellow member of Thornbury Methodist Church, in 2017.

Andrew added: “He was a hardworking, humble man who respected people and gave everything he could.

“I think it was his determination of personality that helped him succeed.

“I guess it’s why there were so many people at his funeral.

“It was a pleasure to see.”

His funeral arrangements were supported by REME, as well as the Arborfield Old Boys Association, which he was largely responsible for restarting in the 1970s.

A REME standard-bearer was present at the services at Thornbury Methodist Church and Canford Cemetery and Crematorium in Westbury on Trym.

“The funeral was very emotional and fitting,” said Andrew.

“Thornbury Methodist Church was full, and the military support was very moving and a fitting tribute.”

Mr Keast was also remembered at the Arborfield Old Boys Parade and Memorial Service on June 15 at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

This event commemorated those who had passed away or been lost in the last year.

(Image: Supplied)

(Image: Supplied)