Captain Moore poses for a photograph with cakes to celebrate his 100th birthday in Marston Moretaine, north of London, on Thursday. AFP
British World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore, who has become a national hero after raising millions for the health service, celebrated his 100th birthday on Thursday with a promotion, military flypasts and a message from the prime minister.
Earlier this month, Moore began a fundraising mission for charities that help front-line National Health Service staff battling the COVID-19 crisis by completing laps of his garden with the help of a walking frame, initially setting out to raise just £1,000.
Tom Moore and his family members wave outside his home as RAF jets fly by on his 100th birthday. Reuters
As he celebrated his centenary, the amount he raised topped £30 million ($37.4 million), the Guinness World Record for the most money raised by an individual through a walk.
He has also become the oldest person to notch up a number one single in Britain's main music chart, featuring on a cover version of "You'll Never Walk
Alone," with his endeavours winning the hearts and admiration of the public.
A birthday message for Captain Tom Moore is displayed on the advertising boards in Piccadilly Circus in London. AFP
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and England football captain Harry Kane were among those who offered their congratulations for his 100th birthday. The keen cricket fan was also made an honorary member of the England cricket team and a birthday message was broadcast on the giant billboards at London's Piccadilly Circus.
To celebrate his birthday, Moore was appointed the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College, based near the town where he grew up, a position that came with the approval of Queen Elizabeth, the defence ministry said.
He has also been re-presented with his World War Two Defence Medal which he had lost.
Two women with cakes in front of a happy birthday message for Tom Moore on his 100th birthday. Reuters
Historic World War Two aircraft carried out a flypast above "Colonel" Moore's home in Bedfordshire, central England, early on Thursday, with a second fly over by modern Royal Air Force helicopters due later.
Moore, who said he was still "Captain Tom," said he was honoured by his promotion and all the kind messages he had received.
"If people choose to call me colonel, well thank you very much," he told BBC TV with a chuckle. The veteran, who served in southeast Asia during the war, waved at the World War Two fighter planes as they flew over his home.
Since Monday, Britain's Royal Mail has added a special postmark to all stamped post with a congratulatory message to Moore, while more than 125,000 birthday cards have been sent to him by well-wishers, so many that a nearby school has had to open and display them.
"I never, ever anticipated ever in my life anything like this, it really is amazing. I must say ... thank you very much to everyone, wherever you are," Moore said.
His exploits earlier this month have been heralded by politicians and royalty alike.
Johnson, who returned to work on Monday after recovering from COVID-19 himself, recorded a special message for Moore.
RAF helicopters fly past a pub with birthday messages for Captain Tom Moore marking his 100th birthday. Reuters
"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 an entire nation," Johnson said. He said Moore was a "point of light in all our lives."
The royal family have also sent messages of congratulations, including a card from the queen.
"I was most interested to hear of your recent fundraising efforts for NHS Charities Together at this difficult time," said the 93-year-old monarch, who traditionally writes to centenarians on their birthday. "I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion."
On Thursday morning, Royal Air Force pilots flew a Spitfire and a Hurricane, usually deployed for World War II commemorative events, over Moore's home in Bedfordshire, north of London.
Live television footage showed the veteran in his garden, smartly dressed in a jacket and tie with his medals on his chest, waving as they went past.
England cricketers have lined up to congratulate Moore on his century, and former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan awarded him his own England cap.
"There are 695 men and 160 women who are part of that special club of English Test cricketers," said Vaughan, who also captained Moore's home county of Yorkshire.
"We all want to welcome you Captain Tom to our team," he said, adding it was "our way of and our time to say 'thank you'."
Moore's unlikely ascent to the top of the pop charts came with a charity version of musical classic and popular football chant "You'll Never Walk Alone," in which he sings along with British stage star Michael Ball and the NHS choir. "We are hugely proud of how the nation has taken granddad to its heart," said grandson Benjie. "Words can't express how much I idolise him."
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