ONE retiree living in Hexham's Hewson Court has shared his life story.

76-year-old Douglas Elsworth (Dougie), from Newcastle, joined the Army at 18 years old.

From 1968, he travelled worldwide, serving in the Ordnance Corps.

He ended up in Norway in the early 1980's where he trained in Arctic warfare.

READ MORE: Obituary: Remembering Bill Telfer - the go-to man of Stamfordham

Hexham Courant: Dougie and comrades in Hong Kong in 1970-1971, New TerritoriesDougie and comrades in Hong Kong in 1970-1971, New Territories

Training was based on survival skills and Dougie spent months living in self-dug ice caves in the Tundra, below the Arctic ice caps, where temperatures would reach as low as -26 degrees during the night.

Dougie said: "I'd gone from coping with the subtropical climates and humidity of Hong Kong to dealing with bone-chilling temperatures.

During the night was the only time they didn't wear their regimental berets.

Hexham Courant: Dougie in Catterick 1983-1984, Sergeant Major Royal Army Ordinance CorpDougie in Catterick 1983-1984, Sergeant Major Royal Army Ordinance Corp

"Instead, we wore foraging hats which were fur lined with flap down ears, and Arctic socks which were like mini sleeping bags for your feet to keep the frost bite out. 

"We survived by digging deep snow caves where we'd eat and sleep, melting snow to make our boil-in-the-bag rations. 

"I always wondered how those little bags of dust could suddenly transform into the most delicious rhubarb crumble.

"We were all eating around 6,000 calories a day just to keep our bodies functioning in the cold.

Hexham Courant: Dougie while based in Cultybraggan, Perthshire, Scotland, in Royal Green Jacket, 1990Dougie while based in Cultybraggan, Perthshire, Scotland, in Royal Green Jacket, 1990

He said when he returned, he had lost over a stone in weight.

Dougie's favourite tour of duty was in Hong Kong. 

"It was 30 degrees most days so a group of us would head down to the beach, swim in the South China Sea and spend many glorious an hour surrounded in paradise."

A few years later, an encounter at a hotel bar led him to marry the love of his life, Irene. 

"She waved me over and 33 years of marriage later, the rest as they say, is history."

"I've lived a charmed life," says Dougie. "I left school with no GCSEs to my name so to retire a Captain I thought to myself, not bad for a young lad from Newcastle."

Hexham Courant: Dougie Elsworth at Hewson CourtDougie Elsworth at Hewson Court

Dougie and Irene enjoyed years together in an Oxfordshire village, until Irene passed away five years ago and Dougie decided to downsize.

Relocating to Hexham, he said: "I've got all the facilities I could need on my doorstep.

"The House Manager, Cat, is wonderful and couldn't do more for you and we've had some great events here – there's always things to do."

Dougie divides his time between weekly chair yoga classes, spending time fine dining with his adult nephew, trips to the local pub joined by his new neighbours, plenty of walking and exploring hidden corners of Hexham.

He comments: "My family have all remarked how much calmer I am now, and I do, I feel really fortunate to be living in Hexham and very happy and at ease in my lovely apartment."