The Military Wives Choir say they’re still ‘pinching themselves’ as they announced their Christmas No 1 single had raised more than half a million pounds for charity.

The song Wherever You Are, which used lines from the wives’ love letters to their husbands serving in Afghanistan, was the fastest-selling charity single since Elton John’s Candle In The Wind in 1997, the Official Charts Company confirmed.

As the group and their choral director Gareth Malone presented a cheque for £503,985 to The Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, Malone said it felt like a dream.

He added: “It’s astonishing that something we recorded in a few hours has taken off like this.

“When I first heard the song I thought there is something here that will appeal to lots of people, but I had no idea it would take off like this.

“Nothing I have ever done comes close to this. It’s all a bit of a dream. I’m pinching myself.”

The single beat X Factor winners Little Mix’s offering Cannonball to the Christmas No 1 spot and Malone said that while winning was sweet, the money raised was the bigger prize.

“The money is better than the victory. It was lovely to be involved in this phoney war, but what really counts is this will directly affect the families of servicemen.”

The choir also announced they will release an album in time for Mother’s Day, featuring the single, as well as covers of Adele and U2 songs

It will raise money for the Military Wives Choir Foundation to help set up other choirs on military bases.