A postmaster has been forced to take over an empty school as more than 40,000 cards pour in to mark the 100th birthday of Captain Tom Moore as a team of aircraft restorers prepare a Spitfire for flypast on his big day.
The 99-year-old, who crowdfunded £28million for the NHS by walking lengths of his garden in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, was flooded with letters ahead of his centenary on April 30, which were sorted by the South Midlands Mail Centre in Northampton.
Bedford School, attended by Captain Tom’s grandson, Benjie, accepted the delivery after providing their Great Hall for socially-distancing staff to open each card.
Bill Chandi, who is in charge of the local post office, told the Bedford Independent: ‘In all my years as a Post Master, I’ve never seen anything like this.
‘We’re ecstatic for Tom. Whenever he used to pop into our shop he’d always say to me that post offices are at the centre of the community. I spoke to him on Saturday and told him that’s certainly true now.’
Bedford school’s Great hall transformed into a sorting office for Captain Tom Moore’s birthday cards, as he received more than 40,000 letters ahead of his centenary on April 30
A team of socially-distancing staff began the huge task of opening the tens of thousands of 100th birthday cards sent to Captain Tom, who raised over £28million for the NHS
Staff at the mail centre have now reprogrammed sorting machines to separate Captain Tom’s mail into a dedicated collection box, and are expecting to deal with hundreds of thousands of cards and letters in the next few days.
Stephen James, the manager at the centre receiving thousands of cards for the veteran, told the BBC: ‘None of the team have ever known one person receive so much mail.’
It comes as an RAF team from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar hope to fly a Spitfire past the hero’s home as a ‘small gesture’ to celebrate his achievements.
A picture of the plane emblazoned with the words ‘Spirit of Kent’ and the NHS logo was posted by Fly a Spitfire Biggin Hill on Instagram, captioned: ‘Getting ready for Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday Spitfire flypast.
‘Fingers crossed for approval and blue skies on the 30th.’
Alex Monk, 21, from the Hangar, previously told The Telegraph: ‘It will be a bit of a moral booster for us all really, to see a Spitfire in the sky. It’s been a symbol of freedom in the past and quite an icon for Tom.’
A close-up picture of some of the 100th birthday cards sent to Captain Tom. The 99-year-old crowdfunded the sum by walking lengths of his garden in Bedfordshire
Stacked boxes containing cards for Captain Tom in the school’s Great Hall, pictured. Staff at the mail centre have reprogrammed sorting machines to separate the veteran’s mail
The plan is for the Spirit of Kent, which was built in 1945 and flew in the memorial flight for the Battle of Britain, to fly at 500 feet and 250mph over the former tank commander’s home in the Bedfordshire village of Marston Moretaine.
The Second World War veteran also wished the Queen a happy 94th birthday yesterday, saying: ‘Happy Birthday your Majesty… With the highest regards, Captain Tom Moore’.
Captain Tom’s daughter, Lucy Teixeira, said she ‘just can’t believe what has happened’ following her father’s fundraising, telling BBC Breakfast: ‘My heart is bursting… Well done, Daddy.’
She added: ‘I’m having to get used to the thought of sharing you with millions and millions of people.’
An RAF team from the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar hope to fly a Spitfire (pictured) past the hero’s home as a ‘small gesture’ to celebrate his achievements
Spitfire Spirit of Kent (pictured at Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar, Surrey), which was built in 1945 and flew in the memorial flight for the Battle of Britain
The 99-year-old veteran, who was invited to do the honours for the site in Harrogate after raising a staggering £27million for the NHS , appeared at a virtual ceremony this afternoon. Pictured: Captain Tom Moore with his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore speaking on videolink
Guests hold up a sign wishing a Happy 100th Birthday to Captain Tom Moore as he and his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore speak via videolink at the opening of NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber in Harrogate. The hospital is one of a network of seven sites providing surge capacity across England during the coronavirus pandemic
Royal Mail will use a special postmark to wish Captain Tom a happy birthday, appearing on all stamped mail in the UK beginning next week.
Captain Tom has said plans for his 100th birthday party were affected by the coronavirus lockdown, but the huge swathes of support the country has voiced for him was ‘a party enough for me’.
He had started raising money to thank NHS staff who helped him with cancer treatment and a broken hip – and has since launched a cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone with Michael Ball and the NHS Voices of Care Choir.
At the time of writing, Captain Tom has raised over £28million for the NHS on his JustGiving page, after completing his 100th lap last week.
Captain Tom, pictured, raised over £28million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden. The Second World War veteran wished the Queen a happy 94th birthday
The 99-year-old veteran who was invited to do the honours for the site in Harrogate after raising a staggering £27million for the NHS by completing 100 laps of his garden, appeared at a virtual ceremony
Captain Tom Moore wished the Queen a happy birthday from his Bedfordshire home as he was flooded with cards ahead of his centenary. His message said: ‘Happy Birthday your majesty. With the highest regards, Captain Tom Moore’
Captain Moore was posted to India where he fought in the Arakan Campaign of 1942 to 1943 during the Second World War
War hero Captain Moore is pictured with his two daughters Lucy and Hannah in a post on his Twitter account
People have started campaigns for Tom to be knighted and Tom said the generosity of people had been amazing.
He said: ‘It’s unbelievable, it’s difficult to imagine, that sort of money that has been coming in from kind people all over the county.
‘To the NHS and back up people and all doctors and services throughout the world, we have got to say well done to all of you because you are putting yourself into danger and doing it cheerfully’.
It comes as the UK announced another 828 deaths from coronavirus yesterday, taking Britain’s total number of victims to 17,337.
From Yorkshire to India: Captain Tom Moore’s career in the military
Captain Tom Moore was conscripted into the British Army in June 1940 when he was 20, alongside all men aged 20 to 35.
He began his military career in Otley, West Yorkshire, where he joined the 8th Battalion, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment under Lieutenant Lord George Saville.
The Regiment was sent to train in Wadebridge, Cornwall where they were tasked with coastal defence amid a predicted German invasion.
A young Captain Moore was soon promoted to Corporal and sent to the officer cadet training unit in Droitwich Spa.
Here, he celebrated his 21st birthday after he passed as a Second Lieutenant.
In August 1941, he was sent to the DWR headquarters in Halifax where he joined the 9th Battalion at Winchcombe.
The infantry battalion then converted to an armoured regiment 146th Royal Armoured Corp, though the majority of the soldiers could not drive.
In October, the unit was posted to Bombay, now Mumbai, in India. The journey took six weeks by sea, with a four-day delay in Freetown, Sierra Leone and a four-day stop in Cape Town.
Captain Moore then took a train from Bombay to Poona, before arriving at Kirkee, a town now known as Khadki.
The 9th DWR formed the 50th Indian Tank Brigade under the command of Brigadier Schreiber.
Captain Moore was then asked by the Brigadier to start a motorcycling course for the Brigade due to his expertise for the sport.
The Brigade was then ordered to move to Calcutta – the road journey was in a monsoon and took three weeks.
His Battalion was stationed in the Lohardaga district near Ranchi.
They then took part in two exercises in the Arakan before moving further east and south to Rangoon.
Captain Moore was then sent on a course at the approved vehicle depot in Bovington, England.
He remained here as an instructor until it was closed.