Captain Sir Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran who became a national treasure by raising millions for the NHS, has died aged 100.
Capt Sir Tom, born in West Yorkshire in April 1920, rose to fame during the coronavirus crisis – walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday – raising more than £32m for the health service. His charm, determination and kindness made him a symbol of hope and boosted the morale of a nation facing its darkest days since World War Two. It was the second time Capt Sir Tom had stepped up to the plate when his nation had needed a hero.
He was training as a civil engineer before enlisting into the British Army in 1940 shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, joining 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington Regiment. He later commissioned as an officer and went on to serve in India, before fighting on the frontlines of the brutal Burma campaign – known as the ‘Forgotten War’. “It was important because the Japanese were steadily getting nearer and nearer and nearer to India because their intention was to get through the top of India to the oil fields further round,” he said during an interview in ITV’s Captain Tom’s War documentary. “They [the Japanese forces] were quite a formidable force because there were people who didn’t mind if they died. “They were awful, they were what we say, were completely without morals. They starved people to death and didn’t care. That was bad.
“I was only 21 or 22. You don’t get very frightened at 22.”
Capt Sir Tom, an expert motorcyclist, was tasked with riding a motorbike to the frontlines when tanks could not reach it. The Burma campaign continued until August 1945 – finishing after Victory in Europe was declared. Capt Sir Tom, who had overcome dengue fever while in Burma, deployed to Sumatra after Japan’s surrender and continued to serve in the Army after the war – working as an instructor at the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Bovington, Dorset. After leaving the military, he worked as a sales manager before becoming managing director of a concrete manufacturer. Despite leaving the Army, Capt Sir Tom continued to have a close relationship with the Armed Forces.
For 65 consecutive years, he organised the annual 9th Battalion, Duke of Wellington Regiment reunion in Leeds. He was transferred to the battalion whilst serving in India. Capt Sir Tom lived in Kent for many years but moved in with his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Bedfordshire in 2007. It was from there he again became a hero, walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April 2020. He had only recently recovered from a broken hip and skin cancer when he began the challenge.
His efforts sparked worldwide coverage and rallied much of the nation that had been stuck in lockdown for a number of weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It inspired others to also fundraise and his initial target of £1,000 was completely smashed – raising in total nearly £33m for the health service which was under immense strain.
Capt Sir Tom’s efforts were a sign of hope for many and helped ignite a wartime-like togetherness spirit across the UK. He completed his challenge with a guard of honour by soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment. After crossing the line he said he was glad to be “surrounded by the right sort of people”. His fundraising had grown more than he could have imagined in his wildest dreams. He even landed a number one in the UK singles chart with a charity cover of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, alongside Michael Ball and the NHS Voices of Care Choir. As a result, he became the oldest artist and the first centenarian to top the chart.
Commemorations for his 100th birthday on 30 April 2020 could only be compared to that of the Royal Family. He received two flypasts, one from the Army Air Corps and another from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, including a Spitfire and Hurricane. The Army veteran watched on from his garden, punching the air in delight as the aircraft soared overhead. “Reaching 100 with such interest in me and huge generosity from the public is very overwhelming,” he said. “People keep saying what I have done is remarkable, however, it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable.” He also received more than 150,000 birthday cards and was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate.
Petitions for him to be knighted were answered in May 2020 when it was confirmed he would be made a Sir. He received a knighthood from the Queen during a ceremony at Windsor Castle months later. Asked what was better, raising more than £32m or having the Queen “break her lockdown” to award him the honour, Capt Sir Tom replied: “The money is very useful but you’ve only one Queen and when you get a message from the Queen there’s no value that can be placed on that.” Capt Sir Tom represents one of the most well-liked characters in the UK and will always be remembered for answering the country’s calls for a hero.