An 86-year-old veteran marked the first Armed Forces day by raising a battle-scarred Union Jack flag - which has not seen action since World War II - on his garden flagpole.

Former intelligence officer, John Nunneley, from Petersham, celebrated the achievements of past and present members of the armed forces on Saturday by digging the 9ft by 3.5ft flag out of his safe and flying it with friends from the Royal British Legion.

Before being tucked away inside Mr Nunneley’s Ashfield Close home, the Union Jack travelled from country to country as a trophy of war.

“The flag was flying from an official building in Singapore when Singapore surrendered to the Japanese on February 15, 1942,” Mr Nunneley explained.

“A Japanese soldier hauled the flag down, laid it on the ground and painted in big black Japanese characters ‘commemorating the fall of Singapore, February 15, 1942, Sergeant Major Uchiyama.’ “This chap was obviously very proud of his remarkable trophy to the extent, when posted in 1944 to fight in Burma, he carried it with him in his pack.”

It was here that the flag’s epic journey across borders took another twist when Mr Nunneley, a lieutenant in the Kings African Rifles at the time, reclaimed the British colours.

He continued: “We had a fierce battle against the Japanese during a period of the monsoon - raging like mad.

“I led a patrol behind Japanese lines after one pitched battle involving about 300 men and because I was intelligence I had to go and look at the Japanese bodies and take anything of interest from them to our people.

“In the pack of one of them I found this flag.

“I could hardly believe my eyes.”

Years after his startling discovery, the veteran embarked on one final mission - to piece together the history of Sgt Maj Uchiyama and the Union Jack, which still bares his markings and signature.

Mr Nunneley’s voyage saw him return to Burma and visit Japan between 1991 and 2002. As a member of the Burma Campaign Fellowship Group, he also used his trips to help improve relations between the UK and Japan - and now names several Japanese veterans among his friends.

He added: “I came to know a friend of the very Japanese captain I fought against and took this [flag] from.

“People like the idea of reconciliation and friendship instead of the customary hatred.”

Mr Nunneley was made an MBE in 2001 for his efforts to better relations between Japan and the UK.

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