A giant birthday message to a 100-year-old Second World War veteran who recorded a wartime song to raise thousands of pounds for charity has been broadcast from a billboard in central London.
Charlie Pallett, who celebrated his centenary on Tuesday, has raised more than £27,000 for Help for Heroes after going behind the mic for a performance of Keep Right On To The End Of The Road.
A heart-warming video of the great-great-grandfather delivering the rousing rendition of one of his favourite songs while wearing his medals has received thousands of views online.
Mr Pallett, undaunted by being registered blind and wearing two hearing aids, previously said he wanted to “raise money for the lads, the guys I was with in the war”.
As a tribute to the veteran, who lives in Shepway, Kent, and who has a lifelong passion for singing, Help for Heroes arranged for a birthday message to be displayed on a large advertising screen in Leicester Square to be played once every minute for 24 hours on Tuesday.
Wishing him a happy birthday, the billboard donated by Ocean Outdoor said: “WW2 hero Charlie Pallett turns 100 today, but he doesn’t want presents…”
Quoting Mr Pallett, it added: “Instead of presents, please donate to Help for Heroes because as a veteran, it’s a very special charity to me”.
The message was flanked by a photo of him as a young man as well as another image of him holding his birthday card from the Queen.
Appearing alongside his daughter, Yvonne Elliott, on BBC Breakfast, Mr Pallett said he and his comrades used to sing the song when heading back to their billets after marching and training.
Ms Elliott said the amount donated so far, smashing an original target of £1,000, is “unbelievable” and has left the family “overwhelmed”.
Her father, sporting a “100 today” badge, said that, when the initiative started, he had said: “If we don’t get £1,000 by my birthday then I will put it in there.”
“I didn’t think it would do anything,” he added.
Speaking to the PA news agency last month, the veteran said he was inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore.
Asked by the BBC how he planned to celebrate his birthday, Mr Pallett joked: “First of all, I think I might have a brandy and ginger”, adding with a laugh: “If I empty the bottle too early I might pass out, you never know.”
Born in Derbyshire, Mr Pallett’s family moved to Burnley, Lancashire, when he was a baby.
After working in the coal mines, he had just got a job as a lorry driver when in 1939, at the age of 18, he received a letter telling him he had been called up.
During the war he served as a driver and later as a dispatch rider in the 53rd Welsh Division and 52nd Lowland Division, eventually rising to the rank of corporal.
His service took him to the north of Germany, where he broke his ankle, before going out to Singapore.
It was while he was stationed in Maidstone, Kent, that he met his future wife, Madge, and they married in 1943.
They were together for 76 years, living most of their married life in Maidstone, before she died in June 2019 at the age of 95.
After leaving the Army, Mr Pallett worked as a labourer, bus driver and postman, and ended up as a guillotine operator in a local printers.
He has three daughters, five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.
Carole Groves, national senior fundraising manager at Help for Heroes, said: “For Charlie to ask for donations to help other war heroes instead of receiving cards and presents for his 100th birthday is so incredibly generous – and also timely as the past 12 months have been tougher than ever for veterans living with a life-changing injury or illness.
“We can’t stop watching his wonderful video, which warms the cockles of our hearts.
“By supporting veterans and their families Charlie is helping us give them the strength they need to live the lives they deserve.”
This week Birmingham City Football Club, whose fans have adopted Keep Right On To The End Of The Road as an anthem, are due to send Mr Pallett a shirt with “Charlie 100” on the back.
Donations to Mr Pallett’s fundraiser can be made at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/charliepallett100-helpforheroes