Captain Tom Moore has been promoted to Honorary Colonel by the Queen to mark his 100th birthday today after the World War II veteran captured the hearts of the nation by raising £29 million for the NHS by doing laps of his garden.
The promotion comes alongside a personal letter from Her Majesty and the new Colonel has also been re-presented with his Second World War Defence Medal ahead of next week’s VE Day celebrations.
And, along with the usual cake and champagne, there’ll be two flypasts to mark his big day today – by Army Air Corps helicopters as well as a Spitfire and Hurricane in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
As well-wishers across the globe sent cards in their thousands, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace paid tribute to Colonel Tom, saying he not only embodies ‘the spirit of our incredible veteran community but also the resolve of this nation’.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, Chief of the General Staff, made the appointment, making the veteran the first Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, which trains 16 and 17-year-old soldiers.
He will be an ‘inspirational role model to generations young and old,’ Sir Mark said.
Giving his own message to Britain as it battles the coronavirus, Colonel Tom stressed the importance of unity.
He told the Express: ‘As you will have come to know, I sincerely believe that we as a nation must always stand together, united and undivided by class, race or religion, and the only way we will defeat this invisible enemy is to stand shoulder to shoulder, and never walk alone.’
The veteran, who completed a sponsored walk of his garden in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire to raise millions for the NHS through JustGiving, was informed of the promotion in a letter presented by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Miller, of the 1st Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, which also awarded him the prestigious annual Regimental Medal.
As well as congratulations from Prince Charles and Camilla, who said he makes her ‘proud to be British’, the veteran has also had a train named after him – The Captain Tom Moore – which will go into service with the new name today, Great Western Railway said.