Video report by ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie
Captain Sir Tom Moore said it is “truly a great honour” to be made honorary colonel of an Army training college as he visited the military establishment as part of his new role.
The 100-year-old Second World War veteran told junior soldiers to take full advantage of the “outstanding” Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, as he was shown around the facility on Monday.
Captain Sir Tom raised almost £33 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire before he turned 100 in April.
He was appointed honorary colonel for the college to mark his milestone birthday.
During his visit to the college on Monday, he said he was “absolutely speechless” to be made honorary colonel.
He said: “To go up in so many ranks so quickly, I’m really delighted with that and I know it’s only an honorary one but really I’m absolutely thrilled with the fact that the honour has been placed on me.
“It really is truly a great honour.”
Captain Sir Tom described the college as a “marvellous place” and said he did not know whether he would have been capable of going through the training.
“I never anticipated some time ago that I would get the opportunity or the privilege of coming here and I never knew that it’s such an outstanding operation,” he said.
“I’ve never seen so many opportunities for young people as there is here.”
Captain Sir Tom said he would advise the junior soldiers at the college to try to be the best.
“When I was conscripted, one of the things I did when I joined the Army, I looked round to see all the other people and thought ‘I’m going to be the best’.
“Without climbing over anyone’s shoulders, just quietly get on and do your best and be your best.”
Captain Sir Tom watched junior soldiers take part in various activities at the military training venue, which trains 16 and 17-year-olds for a wide variety of Army careers.
He arrived at the college site in a people carrier, escorted by military police, and posed for a photograph with staff from all departments before attending a service in the chapel.
He waved and gave a thumbs up to assembled junior soldiers, who gave him a round of applause as he walked towards them from his vehicle.
As the audience were asked for questions, a member of civilian staff said: “We just want to say a big thank you from everyone for the inspiration.”
Captain Sir Tom replied: “It has been my pleasure.”
The veteran, who took part in the Battle of Ramree Island, as part of the Burma campaign, during the Second World War, watched a drill lesson, a personal development session and a demonstration on the high ropes.
At the end of the visit, he walked to the exit of the college to applause from junior soldiers, who flanked the 100m-long path, and stopped to talk to cadets along the way.
Before he left the site, he was presented with a commemorative frame containing photos of the college and his visit and badges of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, in which he served, and the Army Foundation College.
He had earlier been given a colonel’s rank slide, which he wore on his tie during the visit.
Junior soldier Daniel Barker, 17, from Sheffield, described him as an “inspiration”.
He said: “He gave us some advice for our future, to understand how lucky we are because back in his day it was much different, he didn’t have the opportunities we have here at the college and to take full advantage of that.”
Captain Sir Tom had set out to raise £1,000 from his lockdown charity challenge but his efforts struck a chord with national feeling and praise and donations flooded in, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he “provided us all with a beacon of light through the fog of coronavirus”.
He was knighted by the Queen during a unique open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle earlier in July and said the knighthood was “something very special”.