Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday will be marked by an RAF flypast, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.
The Cabinet minister wrote on Twitter that the aerial salute was “meant to be a surprise for Tom”, but confirmed it would be happening after it emerged that his department rejected an earlier plan for a flypast organised by a Spitfire restoration company.
Captain Tom has raised £29 million for the NHS by walking laps of his garden ahead of his birthday.
Kent’s Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar had organised a flypast involving a Mark 9 Spitfire named The Spirit Of Kent.
But on Monday it revealed it had been denied permission for the flight by the Department for Transport, acknowledging that “current general aviation restrictions are in place to prevent non-essential travel”.
The firm said the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) – which is based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and includes six Spitfires – is “not bound by the same restrictions”.
It added: “It is our understanding that they are now picking up the baton to provide a flypast for Captain Tom.
“Getting a Spitfire overhead for Captain Tom was always the primary goal and we’re thrilled that this may still be possible.
“We wish the BBMF team the very best of luck and hope that the weather permits a flypast on the 30th of April.”
Mr Shapps wrote on Twitter that the RAF flypast means Captain Tom will be honoured “in an even more significant way”.
The RAF would not comment on the plans.
A school in Bedfordshire has been flooded with more than 125,000 cards from well-wishers across the globe for Captain Tom’s birthday.
Famous names including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Dame Kelly Holmes and England football captain Harry Kane were among those to send cards to Bedford School, where Captain Tom’s grandson, Benjie Ingram-Moore, is a pupil.
Benjie turned to his school for help when he learned that the post office was being swamped with cards.
The 16-year-old 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.
“Another £60,000 has been generously donated via his birthday cards.
“It means a lot to Granddad as well as us as a family. We are hugely proud of how the nation has taken Granddad to its heart. Words can’t express how much I idolise him.”
Captain Tom was originally planning to mark his centenary with a family party but the celebrations have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been both heart-warming and humbling to see our school community come together to help Captain Tom with the massive task of opening his tens of thousands of 100th birthday cards. Read the full story in the link: https://t.co/NYgDAIeYnX— Bedford School (@BedfordSchool) April 26, 2020
A total of 140 members of school staff, parents and pupils past and present spent 1,750 hours opening each card and creating a display in Bedford School’s Great Hall.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the nation to show the same optimism and energy as Captain Tom in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
“If we, as a country, can show the same spirit of optimism and energy shown by Captain Tom Moore, who turns 100 this week, if we can show the same spirit of unity and determination as we have all shown in the past six weeks, then I have absolutely no doubt that we will beat it together,” Mr Johnson said.
In another tribute to Captain Tom, all mail sent from Monday will be stamped with a special postmark in his honour.