NHS fundraising hero Captain Tom Moore has had a 100th birthday Spitfire flypast cancelled over fears it could endanger the coronavirus lockdown.
A restoration company had announced plans to fly a lone Spitfire over Captain Moore’s house in Marston Moretaine, Beds, this Thursday, when he turns 100, just in time for the nation’s weekly Clap For Carers.
But the Department of Transport has said it would constitute non-essential travel and expressed concerns it could draw crowds amid the coronavirus lockdown, the Telegraph reported.
Hero Captain Tom has raised more than £29million for the NHS by doing 100 laps of his garden ahead of his landmark birthday on April 30.
He has been lauded by celebrities, politicians and royalty for his heroic work, and landed the Number One spot in the UK charts with a remake of You’ll Never Walk Alone with Michael Ball.
Alex Monk, a pilot who works for the company that restored the Spitfire, told the Telegraph they would now offer Captain Tom a ride in one of the planes, adding: “If it’s safe to do so, we’ll fly him in one of the two-seater Spitfires.
“That’s still something nice for him to look forward to. I think he’d appreciate that.”
The firm are still able to fly in the air traffic zone around the airfield without needing permission.
The flight on Thursday will go over the Princess Royal University Hospital, just on the edge of Bromley.
Mr Monk added: “That way they can see a Spitfire and we can do a salute to the people of the NHS.
“We’re going to try and do something as a clap for the NHS and it happens to be on Tom’s birthday, which will be nice. Fingers crossed we’ll gun for that.”
A school in Bedfordshire has also been flooded with thousands of cards from well wishers across the globe for Captain Tom.
Ahead of his landmark birthday on Thursday, more than 125,000 cards have been sent to Bedford School where his grandson, Benjie Ingram-Moore, attends.
Cards were also sent from famous names including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Dame Kelly Holmes and England football captain Harry Kane.
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 been 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.
Benjie said: “The swathes of birthday cards and messages from celebrities including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Dame Kelly Holmes and England captain Harry Kane have left granddad speechless and more than made up for his cancelled birthday plans.
“He is truly humbled by the response to his walking in the garden.”
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.
Headmaster James Hodgson said: “We are so very proud to see how far Benjie has come with this – the story of his grandfather, Captain Tom Moore, has captured the nation and is a real affirmation of people’s kindness.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the nation to show the same optimism and energy as Captain Tom in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking in Downing Street after battling Covid-19, Mr Johnson praised the fundraiser.
“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,” he said.
“We will come through this all the faster and the United Kingdom will emerge stronger than ever before.”
In another tribute to Captain Tom, all mail sent from Monday will be stamped with a special postmark in his honour.
The Royal Mail postmark, which will be applied to all stamped post between April 26 and May 1, reads: “Happy 100th Birthday Captain Thomas Moore NHS fundraising hero 30th April 2020.”
The fundraiser’s original target of £1,000 was broken in around 24 hours and he extended his challenge to 200 laps after he completed the first 100 two weeks ahead of schedule.