FUNDRAISING hero Colonel Tom Moore celebrates his 100th birthday today — but has no plans to put his feet up just yet.
Before opening a telegram from The Queen, the World War Two veteran — promoted from captain to honorary colonel by military top brass — hopes to complete the 200th lap of his now-famous garden.
And then Colonel Tom, who has raised an astonishing £30million for NHS workers, will read some of the 150,000 cards he has received — including hundreds sent by young readers of this paper.
Last night, Tom thanked HOAR’s amazing readers as we handed your cards to this remarkable man, who has inspired the world during the coronavirus crisis.
He said: “I kept my promise to keep on walking and now I don’t want to stop.
“Thank you to every single person who has helped raise this incredible sum of money.
“I will always be grateful for what you have done.
“For your birthday cards, your thoughts, your gifts and warm wishes, thank you.
“I will never, ever forget.
“It will stay with me and my family for ever.”
When we asked young readers to send birthday cards to Colonel Tom, we were deluged with beautiful drawings.
‘I WILL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL’
He has pledged to try and read them all, along with cards sent by England football captain Harry Kane and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
One came from a prisoner serving life, who wrote: “I have 23 years left of my sentence.
“I have made some wrong decisions in my life but you have touched me and I will try to be a better person.”
Also among the thousands of cards he has received was another £60,000 donation for the fund.
Yorkshireman Tom had planned to mark his centenary with “fun and fizz” for 100 friends and family in a small marquee in the garden of his home in Marston Moretaine, Beds.
But the arrival of coronavirus meant he had to cancel the hog roast along with vintage entertainer Lily Lovejoy, who sings Burma veteran Tom’s favourite songs.
Because of lockdown, he can only celebrate with daughter Hannah, 49, her hubby Colin and their kids Benjie, 16, and Georgia, 11.
is elder daughter Lucy Teixeira, who lives in Reading, Berks, will not be able to travel to mark her dad’s birthday but will join him via video-call.
She said: “It’s very painful for me, like with many other people who are in the same boat, not to be with loved ones on significant birthdays and celebrations.
“But the benefit of having a very famous dad is now there will be cameras there on the day.”
Colonel Tom’s family have not told him that RAF pilots from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were expected to stage a flypast of Spitfires and Hurricane planes over the house at 8.20am today.
Hannah said: “We are trying to keep everything under wraps as we want him to be surprised.”
A second flypast by the Army Air Corps with a Wildcat and an Apache attack helicopter is expected over his home at 2.30pm.
‘VERY FAMOUS DAD’
His birthday will be covered on TV by BBC Breakfast this morning and after tonight’s Clap for Carers, the whole village will turn out and sing Happy Birthday.
Colonel Tom had been challenged by Benjie and Georgia to walk 100 laps of his garden to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together.
Widower Tom, who had been treated for a broken hip and skin cancer, took up the challenge with gusto even though it meant walking slowly using a zimmer frame.
He completed the 100 laps two weeks ago but carried on — and now holds the Guinness World Record for the most money raised by an individual on a sponsored walk in the UK.
He earned a second Guinness record after becoming the oldest person to have a UK Number One after hitting the top spot with You’ll Never Walk Alone.
The charity single was recorded with Michael Ball and the NHS Voices of Care Choir.
Tom said: “What wonderful news to have a number one single on my birthday and be a record breaker too.
“My grandchildren can’t believe I’m a chart-topper.”
Yesterday Hannah told HOAR: “You and all your readers have given him head-to-toe joy, your interest has re-energised him.
“For him, always, tomorrow will be a better day.”
Tom served as a captain with a Yorkshire regiment during the war.
But in honour of his achievements, the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorks, made him its first Honorary Colonel.
Head of the Army, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, made the appointment, with the Queen’s approval, as Tom’s efforts walking around his garden “embodied the Army’s values and standards”.
General Sir Mark said: “His mature wisdom, no-nonsense attitude and humour in adversity make him an inspirational role model to generations young and old.”
Tom was informed of his new rank in a letter given to him personally by Lt-Col Thomas Miller, commanding officer of 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment.
He also presented Tom with his World War Two Defence Medal, which he had lost, so he can wear it at next week’s VE Day celebrations, as well as the prestigious Regimental Medal.
It is awarded annually to an individual in the Yorkshire regiment family considered to have made the greatest contribution in the previous 12 months.
Colonel Tom also pleaded with fans not to go to his village to wish him happy birthday.
He said: “It is quite extraordinary that I am turning 100.
“It is even more extraordinary that I am doing this with so many well-wishers.
“I am in awe at the response my walking has had.
“To everyone who has donated, sent birthday cards and messages, sincerely, thank you.
“Please stay home, stay safe.
“Tomorrow will be a good day.”