Flypast and promotion for UK fund-raising hero 'Colonel' Tom as he turns 100

LONDON (Reuters) – British World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore, who has become a national hero after raising almost 30 million pounds for the health service, celebrates his 100th birthday on Thursday with an honorary promotion and two military flypasts.

Moore has raised 29.4 million pounds ($36.5 million) for charities that help front-line National Health Service staff by completing laps of his garden with the help of a walking frame, having initially set out to raise just 1,000 pounds.

That figure means he now holds the Guinness World Record title for the most money raised by an individual through a walk, and he has also since 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”.

His endeavors have won the hearts and admiration of the public at home and across the world. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on his return to work on Monday after recovering from COVID-19 himself, called upon Britons to show the same resolve as the old soldier to help defeat the virus.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab, who stood in for Johnson in parliament on Wednesday after the prime minister’s fiancee gave birth to their son, said all lawmakers would want to wish him a happy birthday.

“His life of service for his country, his dedication to helping others is an inspiration to us all,” Raab said.

To celebrate his landmark, Moore has been 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 defense ministry said.

There will also be two flypasts by Royal Air Force planes above “Colonel” Moore’s home in Bedfordshire, central England – one featuring historic World War Two aircraft and a second by modern helicopters.

He will also be re-presented with his World War Two Defence Medal which he had lost.

“During these unprecedented times he has reminded us all hardship is easier endured when we place the needs of others above our own, and approach everything with a smile,” said defense minister Ben Wallace.

Tributes have been flooding in for Moore since he started his fundraising mission earlier this month. Since Monday, Britain’s Royal Mail said all stamped post would feature a special postmark in his honor while more than 125,000 birthday cards have been sent to him by well-wishers.

The royal family are among those who had have joined the chorus of praise for the veteran, who served in southeast Asia during the war.

“It’s incredible, it’s amazing,” said Prince William, the queen’s grandson. “It’s wonderful that everyone is being inspired by his story, his determination … he’s a one man fund-raising machine.”

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