Captain Sir Tom Moore’s memory has been honoured with a national clap led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
People across the country took part in the tribute to the veteran at 6pm on Wednesday, following his death at the age of 100.
Mr Johnson stood on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street with his fiancee Carrie Symonds, having earlier urged the public to join in the clap “to show our appreciation for him and all that he stood for and believed in”.
Sir Tom’s family said they were “incredibly touched” by the gesture and took part outside their home in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire.
Nurses and doctors directly involved in the care of Sir Tom at Bedford Hospital also joined the national clap, while the veteran’s first regiment, The Yorkshire Regiment, tweeted a video calling him “a true inspiration”.
Politicians including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were also among those to take part in the tribute.
Earlier on Wednesday, the House of Commons fell silent as a mark of respect to Sir Tom ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions, and Mr Johnson told MPs the centenarian had dedicated his life to serving others.
Sir Tom’s death on Tuesday after testing positive for Covid-19 has prompted reaction from around the world and charities have vowed his legacy will live on “for years and years”.
His family said the last year of his life was “nothing short of remarkable”, and that he had “experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Captain Tom’s contribution – having raised more than £32 million for the NHS during the first coronavirus lockdown – will be formally marked.
Asked whether a statue might be built “in possibly his home town or where he was born or in London”, Mr Hancock told LBC: “Yes, I do think that we should find a way, at the right time, to honour the contribution that he made to the NHS and he was an inspiration to so many people.”
Mr Johnson echoed the sentiment during a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, saying: “On the issue of a statue, a public memorial of some kind… I’m absolutely, of course, open to that.
“We will be working with his family to see what they feel is most appropriate and taking that forward.”
TV presenter Nick Knowles has suggested a permanent statue on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, saying an image of the fundraising veteran swathed in the Union flag would be a “constant reminder of positivity” for the nation.
Fellow presenter Carol Vorderman told Good Morning Britain Sir Tom “deserves a stone in Westminster Abbey”, saying he “embodies this whole terrible pandemic which we are all living through”.
Just over a third of almost 1,500 UK adults surveyed by Opinium are in favour of a statue in Parliament Square, while more than half say Sir Tom should have a hospital named after him.
Sir Tom set out to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday last April – but his efforts struck a chord with the nation and donations flooded in.
In acknowledgement of his fundraising, he was knighted by the Queen during a unique open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle in summer 2020.
Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said Sir Tom “lifted the spirits of an entire nation” and demonstrated that “you’re never too old, you’re never too anything to care for people and to make a difference”.
She told the PA news agency: “He really was a beacon of hope, the optimism that he brought in and hope to us in a really dark and difficult time for this nation, and particularly for the NHS, is just incredible.
“He is held in such amazing high regard, he is a national hero and his legacy will live on in the NHS for years and years to come.”
The Captain Tom Foundation, which was set up to support causes close to Sir Tom’s heart, said its work would “aspire to ensure Tom’s message of hope becomes an enduring legacy”.
Singer Michael Ball, who recorded a charity single with Sir Tom which reached number one, said the Second World War veteran had left the public richer through his charitable acts.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said it was “an awful irony that he has been taken by this virus that he fought so hard to tackle”.
But he added: “He’s left us richer, hasn’t he, in every sense, and better off. He set an example for us all.”
Sir Tom had been taken to hospital on Sunday after being treated for pneumonia for some time and testing positive for coronavirus last week.
His family praised the care he had received from the NHS and said they had been able to spend time with him in his final hours.
In a statement, his daughters, Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira, said: “We are so grateful that we were with him during the last hours of his life; Hannah, Benjie and Georgia by his bedside and Lucy on FaceTime.
“We spent hours chatting to him, reminiscing about our childhood and our wonderful mother. We shared laughter and tears together.”
They added: “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.”
Floral tributes have been left in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire where Sir Tom lived.
Bill Chandi, his friend and local postmaster, said more than 100 cards addressed to the family had arrived on Wednesday, with people starting to send messages after it was reported that Sir Tom had been taken to hospital.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen would be sending a private message of condolence to Sir Tom’s family, while the White House also joined the chorus of tributes.