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Union Jack flown by HMS Belfast 'back home' after Northern Ireland man buys it in US auction

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HMS Belfast is towed on her last voyage from Portsmouth Dockyard to her new berth in London as a floating museum in September 1971.

HMS Belfast is towed on her last voyage from Portsmouth Dockyard to her new berth in London as a floating museum in September 1971.

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One of the ship’s six-inch guns is fired during a salute to mark its 80th anniversary

One of the ship’s six-inch guns is fired during a salute to mark its 80th anniversary

HMS Belfast is launched on St Patrick’s Day 1938 at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast

HMS Belfast is launched on St Patrick’s Day 1938 at Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast

Jonathan Barr with the flag bought at US auction

Jonathan Barr with the flag bought at US auction

HMS Belfast is towed on her last voyage from Portsmouth Dockyard to her new berth in London as a floating museum in September 1971.

A Union Jack belonging to HMS Belfast is returning to the UK after being sold at an auction in the United States.

The vessel famously opened the D-Day barrage as allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944

Ballymena man Jonathan Barr purchased the historical item from an auction house for $2,750 (£2,194).

It had been part of a collection of Second World War flags owned by retired US Admiral Dr Clarence Rungee.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from his home in London, Mr Barr (43) said he could not pass up a chance to own a part of history when it came up for sale last month.

"Being from Northern Ireland, HMS Belfast has a place in my heart and my grandfather fought in the war as well," he said.

Constructed by Harland & Wolff in the 1930s, HMS Belfast is the most significant surviving Royal Navy warship from the Second World War.

Apart from action on D-Day, it also served in the Arctic Convoys and in the Korean War.

Today the Town-class light cruiser is permanently moored on the River Thames and remains a top visitor attraction for the Imperial War Museum.

Mr Barr said he often walks past HMS Belfast and hopes he can reunite it with the flag for others to view.

"My dad actually spotted it on the auction site and I've always been interested in that type of thing having studied history and thought it would be good to bring it back to these shores.

"Having just marked the 75th anniversary if D-Day, and when the world seems very topsy-turvy, it seems serendipitous to get hold of that part of history and have it in Northern Irish hands."

Mr Barr said he has already received an offer of £3,600 for the flag, but maintains he has no plans to ever sell it.

A description on the auction listing said the "Belfast's Jack" was flown at the bow of the ship when at anchor or under special circumstances.

The wool bunting with a roped canvas bears the markings showing the D-Day landings, '6-44 NORMANDY'.

It adds: "The jack of the Belfast is in good condition.

"It is used, worn, soiled and stained, but otherwise it is complete."

Belfast Telegraph