Captain Tom Moore, the war veteran who raised millions for the NHS by walking laps of his garden, has been made an honorary colonel on his 100th birthday.
The occasion was also marked with an RAF flypast and birthday greetings from the Queen and prime minister.
Capt Tom said it was “extraordinary” to be turning 100, especially with “this many well-wishers”.
With celebrations under way, the total he has raised for NHS Charities Together topped £30m.
Head of the Army General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith called Capt Tom “an inspirational role model”.
Capt Tom is due to spend the majority of the day self-isolating with his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and her family at his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire.
“Reaching 100 is quite something. Reaching 100 with such interest in me and huge generosity from the public is very overwhelming,” he said.
“People keep saying what I have done is remarkable, however it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable.
“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day.”
Capt Tom, who was recently treated for a broken hip and skin cancer, initially aimed to rise £1,000 and said he set about raising the money “for the sake of the nurses and the NHS we have, because they are doing such a magnificent job”.
His donations page will close at midnight but Capt Tom said people could still give money directly to NHS Charities Together via their urgent appeal.
The charity’s chief executive Ellie Orton said “what he has achieved will make a lasting difference”.
“We cannot thank him enough for all that he’s achieved and we wish him a very happy birthday, and look forward to continuing to ensure that what he’s done is used to improve the lives of the NHS staff and volunteers that are giving so much to their communities at the moment,” she said.
Among the thousands of birthday greetings was a personalised card from the Queen.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recorded a special message in which he said the veteran was “a point of light in all our lives”.
“I know I speak for the whole nation when I say we wish you a very happy 100th birthday,” he said.
“Your heroic efforts have lifted the spirits of the entire nation, you’ve created a channel to enable millions to say a heartfelt thank you to the remarkable men and women in our NHS who have all been doing the most outstanding job.”
Capt Tom said it was “really outstanding” to get a message from Mr Johnson.
Capt Tom was informed of his promotion to honorary colonel in a letter presented by Lt Col Thomas Miller, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, at his home.
The Army said Chief of the General Staff, Sir Mark, who made the appointment, said Capt Tom’s “mature wisdom, no-nonsense attitude and humour in adversity make him an inspirational role model to generations”.
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Capt Tom said he was “very moved” by the honour because to get that honorary rank in his regiment is “something we would never, ever anticipate”.
“Although I can’t use it in public it really is something special to be able to say honorary colonel,” he said.
“I’m still Captain Tom, that’s who I really am but if people choose to call me colonel, well, thank you very much!”
The centenarian, who will now be entitled to use the rank of colonel, was also presented with a replacement Second World War Defence Medal ahead of next week’s VE Day celebrations.
The life of Capt Tom
- Born in Keighley, in what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire, on 30 April 1920
- He attended the town’s grammar school before completing an apprenticeship in civil engineering
- Capt Tom joined the army at the beginning of World War Two, serving in India and Myanmar, then known as Burma
- After the war he became an instructor at the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Bovington, Dorset
- He lived in Kent before moving to Bedfordshire to be with his youngest daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and her family in 2007
- In 2018, he received treatment for skin cancer of the head, and a broken hip after a fall
- In April, he was inspired to help the health service by completing 100 laps of the patio before his 100th birthday
The birthday has also been marked by a flypast of a Spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, based at RAF Coningsby, which made three passes of his house.
The Ministry of Defence had said it would “celebrate Captain Tom’s birthday and mark his amazing fundraising achievement”.
Sqd Ldr Mark Discombe, Hurricane LF365 pilot, said it was a “huge privilege” for the Memorial Flight to be selected.
“I think it encapsulates everything we stand for, commemorating what he did 75 years ago, [and] we’re celebrating right now what he’s achieved with all his fundraising for the NHS and inspiring the future for us all to pull together and work through this pandemic”.
Capt Tom said it was “fantastic” to see them, that he remembered the planes flying “in anger” and “fortunately today they were flying peacefully”.
Capt Tom is also celebrating his birthday as a chart-topper.
His duet of You’ll Never Walk Alone took the top spot last week, making him the oldest person ever to achieve a number one single in the UK.
His partner on the song, Michael Ball, sang happy birthday to him via a video link and said he was “the only man who could get him in a smart shirt and suit during lockdown”.
Volunteers had to be called in to open tens of thousands of cards sent to Capt Tom, who served in India and Burma (now Myanmar) during World War Two.
An estimated 140,000 cards have been received and are on show at Bedford School, where his grandson, Benjie Ingram-Moore, is a pupil.
Many of the envelopes on the cards will be stamped with a special Royal Mail postmark.
All stamped post up until Friday was being marked with: “Happy 100th Birthday Captain Thomas Moore NHS fundraising hero 30th April 2020.”
The cards even travelled through a dedicated collection box at the South Midlands Mail Centre.
Centre manager Stephen James said: “None of the team have ever known one person receive so much mail.”
Other ways Capt Tom’s 100th birthday is being marked:
- The Royal Mail has unveiled a special postbox in Capt Tom’s honour in Bedford Road, close to where he lives
- He was made an honorary England cricketer by former captain Michael Vaughan
- Aircraft from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar will fly on a circuit around Biggin Hill Airfield, near Croydon, during the evening to coincide with the weekly Clap for Carers event
- The Great Western Railway intercity express train 800025 named after the veteran goes into service on Thursday
- GB Railfreight said a 129-tonne, Class 66 freight locomotive would be named Captain Tom Moore, with the added inscription “A true British inspiration”
- He has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London in recognition of his charity work
Capt Tom’s fundraising feats have inspired a host of artists to honour him with their own creative tributes, including garage murals, patchwork collages, knitted dolls and balloon figurines.
The BBC’s Make A Difference project encouraged people to take photographs of themselves saluting the war veteran which were combined to make a mosaic that was presented to him.