A DECORATED war hero who has captured the hearts of residents across north Essex has raised more than £35,000 for the NHS by walking laps of her garden.

Taking inspiration from newly anointed Colonel Tom Moore, Marjorie West set out last month to walk 100 lengths of her Dedham garden by his 100th birthday.

She wanted to raise money for NHS Charities Together’s coronavirus appeal, setting herself an initial target of £1,000.

But the 99-year-old smashed her target within just a few days and after passing 100 laps, decided she wasn’t done yet.

The nonagenarian kept walking and set herself the challenge of making it to 200 by the time the 75th anniversary of VE Day rolled around.

And after being featured in a primetime spot on BBC news on Friday, the former Wren’s totalled spiralled, working its way to just over £35,000 by Monday morning.

Son Colin West said: “The total clicked through £35,000 on Sunday night.

“The news did a really nice feature on Dedham for VE Day which she was a part of.

“It mentioned she was raising money but they did not put out the link, but as soon as it had been on during the 6pm show on Friday the money started rising.

“After the 10 o’clock news it kicked off again.”

The whole family, including Marjorie’s 14 great-grandchildren, have been astounded by the support shown, not just from north Essex, but from across the UK.

Colin said: “When she started out she wasn’t even fundraising, it was when my sister suggested it about four days in she started.

“We set an initial target of £1,000 which she raised within a couple of days but that was mainly through friends and family.

“We then raised it to £2,000 but we haven’t raised it since.

“There have been a lot of people from the military who have donated, which has been lovely to see.

“It has grabbed people’s attention and it is great to see younger generations have latched on to someone like Marjorie.

“There have been some lovely messages posted with the donations saying she is an inspiration.”

Gazette: Marjorie on VE Day 75Marjorie on VE Day 75

Marjorie signed up with the Wrens after her husband Ted Graysmark was killed whilst serving in the RAF.

He was just 21 and they’d only been married for six weeks.

Using the skills she learned as a teleprinter operator she was deployed in Portsmouth, working on the top secret preparations for Operation Overlord - the D-Day landings.

For her part in the war effort she was awarded the Chevalier in the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest military honour, last year.

It was after seeing Colonel Tom’s exploits on television, she was inspired to follow in his footsteps and do her own challenge to support the NHS.

Although she smashed the original 100 laps target some time ago, she decided to keep going in a bid to raise more cash.

Colin said: “She is doing it partly inspired by Colonel Tom, partly to remember the war but also because of how much she admires the NHS staff.

“She upped the target to 200 laps by VE Day and she did 13 a day last week to make that.

“We found she was very tired after doing 13 laps so now she has eased back to 10 a day again.

“She doesn’t have a current target but we’ll just keep aiming for the next 100.

“I would like to see her go on walking the ten laps for a while longer.

“It is much more exercise than she normally does and it is good for her health as well as her wellbeing to get outside in the fresh air. The money coming in is a bonus.

“I think her 15 minutes of fame turned out to be a bit longer than that.

“She has enjoyed it, but all good things come to an end and they’ll probably be someone else doing another amazing challenge soon to capture people’s attention.”

Donate to Marjorie’s appeal at justgiving.com/fundraising/marjoriewest99.