The group of former naval servicemen and servicewomen living at Trafalgar Court, in Southsea, were flying the White Ensign as a mark of respect and to show their pride at having served their country.
But they awoke one morning to find the flag had been taken down by former Royal Navy Commander Patrick Keefe, chief executive of the charity running the sheltered accommodation for veterans.
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Resident Joe Ince, 76, who was a radio operator in the Royal Navy, told The News: ‘We all donated money for the flag and the flagpole to be put up and everyone commented on how nice it was to see.
‘It was our intention to fly the RAF, Army and White Ensign flags on different weeks and on special occasions.
‘When we found the flag had been taken down all the residents were very angry – we feel it’s very disrespectful to the armed forces.’
He added: ‘Flag-flying regulations state you don’t need consent to fly the national flag, any flag of the armed forces and the Armed Forces Day Flag.’
Residents discovered it had been removed by Mr Keefe after receiving a letter informing them it was available for collection and had been removed, with the letter saying the flag can only be flown on a Royal Navy vessel.
His letter said: ‘Trafalgar Court is not specifically authorised to fly the White Ensign in accordance with Queen’s Regulations for the Royal Navy. I’ve therefore directed that it be removed.’
The residents’ cause has now been supported by Falklands veteran and former Royal Navy petty officer, Chris Purcell, 61, who was sunk on HMS Sheffield.
Mr Purcell, who lives in Fratton, said: ‘I’ve never heard this rule and I served for 20 years.
‘The veterans are just showing their pride in having served in the Royal Navy.
‘To take it down is pathetic.’
Mr Keefe, who runs the Church of England Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Housing Association (Cessa), pointed to regulations backing his stance.
The regulations said: ‘The White Ensign is nothing else but the national colours of a ship of war in commission and no past service in the navy or other connection with the navy can make it correct to hoist it on private buildings on shore.’
Speaking to The News, Mr Keefe added: ‘We are simply not authorised to put up the flag.
‘If they wanted to fly the Union Jack then I would not have a problem.’
The decision has been supported by Gosport based former Lieutenant Commander, Mike Critchley, who added: ‘The only place to fly the White Ensign is on the back end of a Royal Navy ship – end of story. There are other ways of indicating you’re an ex-serviceman.’
Mr Keefe said the group did not ask for his permission to install the flag in the first place. However, veteran Joe said he spoke to Cessa's housing manager and was given the go-ahead.
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