Captain Sir Tom Moore remembered: The WWII veteran who captured the heart of the nation

010221 CAPTAIN SIR TOM MOORE PA 2
Captain Sir Tom Credit: PA

Captain Sir Tom Moore -  who captured the heart of the nation and raised millions to support the NHS - has died at the age of 100 after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Second World War veteran became a household name and a symbol of resilience and hope after he set out to raise £1,000 walking 100 laps of his garden in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire in the days leading up to his 100 birthday last spring.

His efforts struck a chord with a locked down nation - and beyond - looking for positive news amid the height of the coronavirus first wave.

Accolades and donations soon flooded in, and within weeks Captain Tom (as he was back in April) had raised £32.7 million, with donations from 1.5 million supporters, before his fundraising page was closed at midnight following his 100th birthday.

His achievement thrust him into the spotlight and he soon became a national treasure. He topped an extraordinary year, he was knighted by the Queen during a unique open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle in summer 2020 where he became Sir Tom.

Capt Tom waves to a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast of a Spitfire and a Hurricane passing over his home on his 100th birthday Credit: Emma Sohl/Capture The Light Photography/PA

Born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on April 30 1920, Sir Tom said his childhood was happy but tough. In an ITV documentary broadcast last year, he described how his father would bring him pieces of wood, nails and, hammers as presents rather than teddy bears, all of which he says prepared him for later life.

After leaving Keighley Grammar School, he later completed an apprenticeship as a civil engineer before joining the Army.

He enlisted into the eighth battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (8 DWR), an infantry unit that was converted to operate Churchill tanks as part of the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC).

In 1940, he was selected for officer training and rose to the rank of captain, later being posted to 9 DWR in India.



During the war, he served and fought in the Arakan in western Burma, since renamed Rakhine State, and went with his regiment to Sumatra after the Japanese surrender.

After the war, he returned to the UK where he struggled to find a job in the post-war downturn and was forced to take a "soul-destroying" job as a door to door salesman before eventually landing a role at a building materials company in Gravesend, Kent, where he met his future wife, Pamela.

He said: "I got more and more attached to this lady in the office management, the relationship blossomed and I married her.

"No going down on one knee or anything fancy like that, she was 15 years younger than me."

They married in 1968 and the couple had two daughters, Lucy and Hannah.

Pamela died 14 years ago after a long illness. After she was moved to a care home, Captain Sir Tom would visit her every day until her death.

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s grandson Benjie, in the Great Hall of Bedford School where over 140,000 birthday cards were being sorted. Credit: Joe Giddens/ PA

Sir Tom suffered a broken hip in 2018 and also required treatment for skin cancer of the head.

His family said this inspired him to do something to help the NHS, and he hit upon the idea of walking 100 laps of his garden in early April 2020 with the initial target of raising £1,000 for NHS Charities Together.

Ten days later, assisted by his walking frame, he had completed 100 laps and raised more than £20 million.

“It really is absolutely enormous isn’t it?” he said at the time.

“That sum of money is very difficult to imagine but it’s coming in so well.”

He vowed to keep on walking laps of the 25-metre circuit, and did so until his birthday.

Captain Sir Tom Moore receives his knighthood from the Queen Credit: Chris Jackson/PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sir Tom’s “heroic efforts have lifted the spirits of the entire nation”, the Duke of Cambridge praised him as a “one-man fundraising machine” and he even released a charity single.

His enormous feat made Sir Tom a familiar face, and his list of achievements grew almost daily - he even topped the charts with his cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone with singer Michael Ball, making him the oldest artist ever to have a UK number one single.

He became a magazine cover star, gracing the front of glossy monthly British GQ for its after the publication awarded him its 'Inspiration' award as part of its Men Of The Year issue; had a train named after him; was awarded the Freedom of the City of London, and the postbox outside his village Post Office was painted NHS blue in honour of his efforts.

Captain Sir Tom Moore served in India and Burma Credit: IWM Duxford/PA

A huge cricket fan, Sir Tom was also made an honorary member of the England cricket team.

Sir Tom's 100th birthday was marked flypast of a Spitfire and a Hurricane, and he was made an honorary colonel.

At the time Sir Tom said: “I’m one of the few people here who’ve seen Hurricanes and Spitfires flying past in anger.

“Fortunately today they’re all flying peacefully.”

He was sent more than 140,000 birthday cards, including a signed card from the Queen - so many that a dedicated sorting office was set up at his grandson’s school.

But it was more than money that Sir Tom raised, he helped lift spirits across the world during the coronavirus crisis, saying in one TV appearance: “To all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment: The sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away.”

His motto, which signed off many posts from his popular Twitter account, was “tomorrow will be a good day”.

Captain Sir Tom buoyed a nation, but he said the experience also "put a spring back in my step".

Captain Sir Tom Moore raised millions of pounds for the NHS Credit: IWM Duxford/PA

“People keep saying what I have done is remarkable, however it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable,” he said at the time.

“I have renewed purpose and have thoroughly enjoyed every second of this exciting adventure.”

The Captain Tom Foundation was established by his family to “spread hope and ease loneliness”, and his Walk With Tom campaign had the same goal during England’s second lockdown in November 2020.

In a statement on Tuesday announcing Captain Sir Tom's death, his daughters Hannah and Lucy said: "The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of.""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."