Britain's beloved 'Captain Tom' gets 140,000 letters for his 100th birthday
TORONTO -- An elderly Second World War veteran who walked around his garden to raise money for the battle against COVID-19 celebrated his 100th birthday with a military flyby, an honorary promotion and 140,000 cards from well-wishers.
Thomas Moore had hoped to raise 1,000 pounds (CAD$1,730) in donations for NHS Charities Together, which supports British hospitals, by walking the length of his garden 100 times earlier this month. The campaign succeeded beyond his wildest expectations, bringing in more than 31 million pounds (CAD$53.75 million) as of Thursday morning. It was set to close at midnight London time (7 p.m. EDT).
Capturing hearts around the world with his fundraiser, Moore has affectionately been dubbed 'Captain Tom' in tribute to his wartime service, which included stints in India, Indonesia and the U.K. with the British Army.
He turned 100 on Thursday, and his birthday celebrations included a Royal Air Force (RAF) flyby over his home in Bedfordshire, England, where he lives with his daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
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Grant Shapps, an MP and Britain's secretary of state for transport, tweeted Wednesday that the "official RAF fly-past," which had surfaced in media reports leading up to the big day, had been "meant to be a surprise." The flyby was broadcast live across the country by the BBC.
It also appears that some of Moore's neighbours may have been planning their own surprises for the soon-to-be centenarian. Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway tweeted Wednesday that Moore's family had requested police to urge the public not to visit Moore on his birthday.
"Celebrate the 100th birthday of the fabulous Capt Tom Moore from your own homes and don't travel to visit him," she said.
One gift for the veteran was revealed ahead of time: Britain's Royal Mail service is postmarking all letters sent in the U.K. this week with a special message wishing Moore a happy birthday. The mail service said Tuesday that it had already received more than 100,000 cards and well-wishes for Moore, whose fame has also included a late-life detour into popular music; his rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" hit the top spot on the main U.K. singles chart last week.
By Thursday, the number of cards addressed to Moore had hit 140,000. All of them were being kept at the school attended by Moore's grandson before being delivered to their intended recipient..
Other gifts waited until Thursday to be unveiled, including special 100th birthday messages from the Queen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a rendition of "Happy Birthday" from a military band.
In addition, Moore was given an honorary promotion to colonel. It remains to be seen if his millions of newly devoted fans will start referring to him as "Colonel Tom."