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Military wife choir raises £500,000

The Military Wives Choir said they were still "pinching themselves" as they announced their Christmas number one single had raised more than half a million pounds for charity.

The song Wherever You Are, which used lines from the wives' love letters to their husbands serving in Afghanistan, was the fastest-selling charity single since Elton John's Candle In The Wind in 1997, the Official Charts Company confirmed.

As the group and their choral director Gareth Malone presented a cheque for £503,985 to The Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, Malone said it felt like a dream.

He added: "It's astonishing that something we recorded in a few hours has taken off like this. When I first heard the song I thought 'there is something here that will appeal to lots of people' but I had no idea it would take off like this."

Malone said he thought the British public enjoyed the chance to have a cry that the song offered.

"We are stoical by nature and all that but we like those moments where you get a good chance to let it all out and that is absolutely what that has been like for these women, letting 10 years in Afghanistan and all the pent-up emotion and difficulty come out and having a good cry. It makes you feel a lot better."

The single beat X Factor winners Little Mix's offering Cannonball to the Christmas number one spot and Malone said that while winning was sweet, the money raised was the bigger prize.

Nicky Kenyon, 37, said their success first felt real when she saw her child singing along to the single on television: "The surreal thing for me was walking into the lounge to see our video on music TV and my five-year-old singing along to it saying 'Mummy, that's your song.'"

Laura Baldwin, 26, from Plymouth, said her husband Sergeant Jamie Baldwin was also delighted by their triumph: "My husband has been absolutely fantastic, really supportive. I think it has given the husbands peace of mind while they have been out serving that we have had something to focus on back home."

The choir also announced it will release an album in time for Mother's Day, featuring the single, as well as covers of Adele and U2 songs It will raise money for the Military Wives Choir Foundation to help set up other choirs on military bases.

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