Pensioner Leslie Mulley was held by brutal Japanese guards after coming under heavy fire in Singapore towards the end of the Second World War.

He has had nightmares about his horrific time in prison ever since, but despite the ordeal he finally decided to visit Japan.

Before embarking on his 16-day trip Mr Mulley said he felt worried about how he would react but was surprised to find he enjoyed touring the country and meeting its people.

"We were treated to the best hotels and everything was first class," said Mr Mulley, who travelled with other war veterans and widows of men lost in the war.

The group had lunch with the Japanese Ambassador, went to the British Embassy and visited war memorials to English soldiers lost in the war.

Mr Mulley also travelled to Hiroshima where he was greeted by a taxi driver who was just six-years-old when he lost a leg and his family to the bomb.

"He survived but there was no bitterness at all," said Mr Mulley, who also visited a number of schools to tell children about his horrific time as a prisoner of war.

"The younger generations showed sorrow and apologised for the way we were treated," said Mr Mulley, who was impressed by the immaculate manners and presentation of the children and the high quality of the Japanese education system.

Mr Mulley is still receiving letters of thanks from the Japanese children after his visit. He has also been sent photos and cards.

Part of a letter from a Japanese schoolgirl reads: "Thank you for sharing such a valuable story. I understood much more what a tragedy and disaster war is."

Mr Mulley said: "You can't blame the children for what their granddads did."

He was captured after five days of fierce fighting, forced to march 20 miles and did not eat for four days. He had to survive on minimum food, eating mainly baked rice flour mixed into a paste. His weight soon plummeted to seven stone and he was forced to sneak out at night and steal coconuts. He believes eating them saved his life.

The POWs were forced to drill tunnels into hills to store ammunition and they were told that if there was a chance Japan would lose the war they would be forced into the tunnels and blown up.

"The guards were brutal," recalled Mr Mulley, of Linkway, Fleet. "They would pick on someone for no reason at all.

"After a few months we were just thin blue skeletons.

"When we were told the war was over I couldn't believe it after all the rumours."

The journey home took months and at one point Mr Mulley was putting on a stone a week.

"When we got back there was no reception, we were just put in a tin hut," said Mr Mulley.

"When I went to the doctors I was given no help — he just said you'll get over it. They never understood what we'd been through."

Mr Mulley, who has a son and a daughter, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, said he still gets nightmares about his ordeal.

"After my wife died a few years ago I kept having dreams that Japanese soldiers were taking her away.

"I just kept breaking down and crying night after night. I was uncontrollable."

But now Mr Mulley says he is embarrassed to make comparisons between Japan and England.

"I was once patriotic and proud, but not now," he said.

"I've got a lot of liking for Japan — it is a great country now.

"There is no litter, no begging or people lying in shop doorways.

"People are not afraid to walk in the streets at night and everyone is trustworthy.

"Their taxes are spent on super roads, travel, schools, and hospitals, and there are no handouts."