Charity fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore got a special message from forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn on the day she died.
Dame Vera, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died aged 103 on June 18.
Sir Tom told Piers Morgan’s Life Stories: “She was congratulating me on the effort to raise all this money. There was a little kind letter from her and that came on the day she died.”
The 100-year-old Second World War veteran also spoke about a horrific accident two years ago, which left his family fearing he was about to die.
He had fallen and hit his head on the dishwasher, suffering a broken hip and rib.
He was given oxygen but had punctured a lung – the oxygen leaked out just below his skin, he said, he started to blow up and it was gradually strangling him.
After his fall, he ordered that a do-not-resuscitate notice be put on his medical notes.
He told the programme: “I always felt that if you are gone, you’re gone. I didn’t want to finish up in an old people’s home without any facility of my own, having to be fed in any way. I would hate to be like that.”
He described the fall as “rather painful, but in the end I’m still here”.
It was the care he received during two months in hospital, and then lengthy spells in rehabilitation, which led him to his record-breaking fundraiser to help frontline workers.
Despite every step being uncomfortable, he managed to raise almost £39 million for the NHS in nearly four weeks.
He had set out to raise £1,000 by walking 100 laps of his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire before his 100th birthday on April 30.
His efforts and positive attitude struck a chord of hope during the coronavirus lockdown, and 1.5 million people from more than 160 countries donated to his charity page.
Sir Tom said: “It just shows there are so many kind people throughout the world.”
He received his knighthood from the Queen at Windsor Castle in July. He has been made an honorary colonel, had a top-selling single and written his memoirs, plus a children’s book, in recent months.
Sir Tom became emotional and fought away tears as he was reminded of the time he moved in with his family as a widower in his 80s, to become a full-time grandfather.
He is helpful, smart, caring, interested, joyous, loyal, and they can’t love him enough, according to his proud grandchildren.
Sir Tom told the programme: “I was very fortunate to move in with them – that was a good day when I moved in with them.
“I have got four grandchildren, what more could you wish for than that – that was a good day.”
He was also so busy on his 100th birthday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had called, was told that he had to ring back, the programme heard.
Sir Tom only recently stopped driving. He went on a speed awareness course after he was caught doing 38mph in a 30mph zone when he was 98. He said he thought the course was “boring”.
He said he hopes his leg will improve so that he can get back on the road, and maybe take a trip on Route 66 in the US in “a nice Bentley”.