Now its Colonel Tom Moore, as Queen approves promotion on his 100th birthday
Nearly 75 years after he collected his demob suit, and on the day he turns 100, Captain Tom Moore’s promotion finally came through.
With the approval of the Queen, the Second World War veteran whose laps of his garden have raised £29m for NHS charities, is today named honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, where 16 and 17-year-olds are trained as future leaders.
He was informed of his elevation in a letter presented at his home in Bedfordshire by Lt Col Thomas Miller, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. He was also presented with a replacement Second World War Defence Medal ahead of next week’s VE Day celebrations.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, chief of the General Staff, said he had made the appointment in order to inspire the next generation of soldiers.
“His mature wisdom, no-nonsense attitude and humour in adversity make him an inspirational role model to generations young and old,” the General said.
Colonel Moore, who is originally from Keighley in West Yorkshire and whose honorary title is three ranks ahead of Captain, told The Yorkshire Post that he was “stunned” by the outpouring of support for his efforts.
“I have been amazed and humbled by the reaction of the strong people of Yorkshire, I have so many happy memories of living in this most wonderful county,” he said.
“I would like to thank them all for supporting me. Yorkshire and my home town of Keighley remain in my heart.”
His centenary today is being marked by two military flypasts, while a GWR intercity express train has been named in his honour. More than 125,000 birthday cards have arrived from well-wishers, and are being stored at his grandson’s secondary school.
He has also become the oldest person to have a number one single, with a cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s You’ll Never Walk Alone, recorded alongside Michael Ball and the NHS Voices of Care Choir.
As honorary colonel, he will now be invited to speak to junior soldiers at Harrogate.
It was just 11 miles from there, in Otley, that he began his military career, having been conscripted into the Army in June 1940, aged 20.
He joined the 8th Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment, now part of the Yorkshire Regiment, and was sent to train in Cornwall where his unit was tasked with preparing coastal defences for a predicted German invasion.
Promoted to Corporal, he was sent next to the officer cadet training unit in Droitwich Spa, and celebrated his 21st birthday after he passed as a Second Lieutenant.
He later served in India and Burma, and after the Japanese surrender went to the island of Sumatra in western Indonesia, before returning as an instructor to the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Bovington, Dorset.
The Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said he was “absolutely delighted” that the Army had honoured him “in such a fitting manner”.
He said: “He not only embodies the spirit of our incredible veteran community, but the resolve of this nation.
“He has reminded us all hardship is easier endured when we place the needs of others above our own, and approach everything with a smile.
“Ahead of VE Day 75, it is fitting that we are once again looking to the Second World War generation to show us the way.”
Colonel Moore had initially hoped to raise £1,000 as a gesture to thank the health services.
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