A Battle of Britain flypast, 140,000 cards, and an honorary title of colonel – the 100th birthday celebrations for Colonel Tom Moore have been something special.
Despite the nationwide lockdown, Moore – who on Thursday morning surpassed £30m in fundraising for the NHS – was able to mark his centenary in style.
The war veteran lives in Bedfordshire with his family. He became a household name across the UK after raising 30,000 times his initial £1,000 target by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday.
Speaking on his birthday on Thursday, Moore said: “Reaching 100 is quite something. Reaching 100 with such interest in me and huge generosity from the public is very overwhelming.
“People keep saying what I have done is remarkable. However, it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable.
“I felt a little frustrated and disappointed after I broke my hip and it knocked my confidence.
“However, the past three weeks have put a spring back in my step. I have renewed purpose and have thoroughly enjoyed every second of this exciting adventure – but I can’t keep walking forever.”
As well as cards from more than 140,000 well-wishers, set out by volunteers in the hall of a nearby school, Moore received messages from PM Boris Johnson and Clarence House.
Johnson said: “Captain Tom, I know I speak for the whole country when I say we wish you a very happy 100th birthday.
“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 are doing the most astounding job.”
Moore said it was “really outstanding” to receive a message from Boris Johnson, to which the PM tweeted in response: “Happy birthday Tom and thank you for your warm wishes!”
Royal Mail has painted a postbox in Moore’s village NHS blue in tribute to his fundraising efforts.
The postbox, in Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire, has been decorated with a golden balloon.
Bill Chandi, who has been Marston Moretaine’s postmaster for 32 years, said: “This has been an incredible time – far, far busier than even Christmas – but I am very happy to help as Captain Tom is a remarkable man, a real role model.”
The cards have been set out in the great hall of the nearby Bedford School and Moore was presented with an aerial picture of his huge delivery by his grandson Benjie Ingram-Moore, who attends the school.
As well as the messages, Moore – who served in the Second World War – was honoured with a special flypast from a Spitfire and a Hurricane, and has been made an honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College by chief of the general staff General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, approved by the Queen.
As a lifelong cricket fan, Moore has also been made an honorary member of the England cricket team.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan said Moore had been “the nation’s heartbeat for the last two or three weeks”.
He told the veteran: “You’ve done so much for the country, you’ve raised so much money for the NHS.
“And now I can officially call you an honorary member of the England cricket team.”
In addition to completing his walking challenge and celebrating his 100th birthday, Moore also managed to rack up a new record when he became the oldest person to reach number one on the official UK singles chart in its 70-year history.
You’ll Never Walk Alone, which was recorded in lockdown and features Michael Ball and The NHS Voices Of Care Choir, also became the fastest selling single of 2020, according to the Official Charts Company.
After a whirlwind three weeks, Moore’s fundraiser will close on Thursday night, but the centenarian has urged the public to continue donating to NHS Charities Together.
His daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore said the last few weeks would be “embedded in our hearts forever”, adding that her father had been told to rest after his fundraising efforts.
“We’ve said: ‘Look, take a little rest now.’ But I think we know that he has touched the hearts of many people around the world,” she said.
“He’s definitely engaged us all and given us hope and unity.
“So, there will be legacy. We, as a family, have come a long way in these last few weeks, and we are working hard to look at what is the future, what’s the future legacy, but he needs to have a little rest now.”