Coronavirus: RAF flypast for Captain Tom’s 100th birthday

Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday will be marked with an RAF flypast, the transport secretary has announced.

The war veteran, who has raised more than £29m for the NHS by walking laps of his garden, turns 100 on Thursday.

The Department for Transport blocked an earlier plan for a flypast of his home organised by a Spitfire restoration firm, as it was deemed “non-essential”.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter that the RAF aerial salute was “meant to be a surprise”.

The Ministry of Defence said the flypast would “celebrate Captain Tom’s birthday and mark his amazing fundraising achievement”.

It urged people “to follow Captain Tom’s disciplined example and not gather to watch the flypast but continue following guidelines on social distancing”.

Captain Tom Moore
Image captionCaptain Tom will celebrate his 100th birthday on Thursday

Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar had organised a flypast involving a Mark IX Spitfire for Capt Tom’s birthday, but on Monday it said it had been denied permission to complete the flight.

Instead, its aircraft will fly on a circuit around Biggin Hill Airfield, near Croydon, to coincide with the weekly Clap for Carers event.

The restoration company said the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – which is based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and includes six Spitfires – was “not bound by the same restrictions” on travel.

Mr Shapps said the RAF flypast of Capt Tom’s Bedfordshire home meant he would be honoured “in an even more significant way”.

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has warned people not to travel to visit Capt Tom in order to protect his “health and safety”.

birthday cards in school hall
Image captionMore than 125,000 birthday cards have been sent to Capt Tom ahead of his birthday

Meanwhile, a school attended by Capt Tom’s grandson Benjie Ingram-Moore has been flooded with more than 125,000 cards from well-wishers across the globe.

Famous names including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Dame Kelly Holmes and England football captain Harry Kane have sent birthday cards for Capt Tom to Bedford School.

Benjie turned to his school for help when he learned the Post Office was being swamped.

Staff, parents and pupils spent hours opening each card and creating a display in the school’s great hall.

Benjie, 16, said: “The volume of cards that have been sent to granddad is just astonishing.

“So many of the cards are truly heartfelt with thousands from young children who have taken the time to use their artistic talent and write a personal message.”

birthday cards in school hall
Image captionBenjie Ingram-Moore said the volume of cards was “astonishing”

In another tribute to Capt Tom, all mail sent from Monday will be stamped with a special postmark in his honour.

Royal portrait artist Darren Baker has also presented Capt Tom with a pastel portrait and a sketch of Keighley, West Yorkshire, where the 99-year-old grew up.

Mr Baker, from Huddersfield, said: “We chatted for ages about Yorkshire. He was over the moon – his smile is as warm as his heart.”

On Friday it was revealed he would be the first ever centenarian to top the charts, after his duet with Michael Ball went straight to number one.

Their cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone sold 82,000 copies, with proceeds going to the NHS Charities Together fund.