Captain Sir Tom Moore obituary: The hero who inspired a nation

2 February 2021, 16:27 | Updated: 3 February 2021, 14:59

Captain Sir Tom Moore has died aged 100
Captain Sir Tom Moore has died aged 100. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Captain Sir Tom Moore, the man who inspired a nation by raising millions of pounds of the NHS, has died aged 100.

Capt Sir Tom was born in Keighley in Yorkshire on 30th April 1920.

He attended Keighley Grammar School and later completed an apprenticeship as a civil engineer.

In 1940, he was conscripted into the army, eight months after the Second World War broke out.

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He joined 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) before being selected for officer training and rising to the rank of captain. He was then posted to 9 DWR in the Far East.

He served first in India and then in Myanmar, known at the time as Burma, fighting in the Arakan area, since renamed Rakhine State.

Captain Sir Tom Moore has died aged 100 after battling Covid-19
Captain Sir Tom Moore has died aged 100 after battling Covid-19. Picture: PA

After the Japanese surrender, he went with his regiment to Sumatra.

Capt Sir Tom returned to the UK after the war, working initially as an instructor at the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Bovington, Dorset.

He later managed a concrete manufacturing company back in Yorkshire, and for years raced motorcycles competitively.

He enjoyed a long and happy marriage to his second wife Pamela after their wedding in 1968, and raised two daughters, Lucy and Hannah.

He also made a foray into television when he appeared on gameshow Blankety Blank, hosted by Terry Wogan, in 1983.

Later in life, Capt Sir Tom lived in Kent for many years before moving to Bedfordshire to be with his family in 2007.

Capt Sir Tom holds his autobiography
Capt Sir Tom holds his autobiography. Picture: PA

He 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.

But it was Hannah’s husband who is said to have come up with the idea of the walking challenge that made Capt Sir Tom one of the most famous faces in the world - and the public face of courage against coronavirus.

He was challenged by his son in law Colin to do 100 laps of the garden to mark his 100th birthday last April - with his family offering him a pound a lap.

Capt Sir Tom after finishing his 100th lap
Capt Sir Tom after finishing his 100th lap. Picture: PA

After being forced to cancel his 100th birthday party, they sent a JustGiving link around their family and friends, and had made two thousand pounds by the time the media began to take an interest.

Capt Sir Tom ended up raising a total of £32.7 million, which has funded a range of NHS projects providing practical and emotional help to staff and volunteers.

As he finished his walk on 16th April, he received a guard of honour from the 1st Battallion of the Yorkshire Regiment.

Capt Sir Tom receives a Guard of Honour as he finishes his 100th lap
Capt Sir Tom receives a Guard of Honour as he finishes his 100th lap. Picture: PA

A long list of celebrities praised his efforts, including David Walliams, Sir Mo Farah, Lewis Hamilton and Gary Lineker, along with politicians and royals including Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the Duke of Sussex.

A flypast of a Spitfire and a Hurricane marked his 100th birthday two weeks later and he was sent more than 140,000 cards, including one signed by the Queen.

Capt Sir Tom's birthday cards
Capt Sir Tom's birthday cards. Picture: PA
A Spitfire and Hurricane pass over the home of Capt Sir Tom on his 100th birthday
A Spitfire and Hurricane pass over the home of Capt Sir Tom on his 100th birthday. Picture: PA

Capt Sir Tom's rise to one of the nation’s most loved figureheads has continued ever since, with an autobiography and children’s book written, a podcast recorded, his own gin brand launched - and even the film rights to his story sold last autumn.

He became GQ Magazine’s oldest ever cover star when they named him their Inspiration of the Year - and in emotional scenes, he was knighted by the Queen last autumn, and made an honorary Colonel.

Capt Sir Tom Moore is knighted by the Queen
Capt Sir Tom Moore is knighted by the Queen. Picture: PA

Capt Sir Tom also made it twice into the Guinness Book of World Records - once for raising the most money ever for an individual charity walk and the second for becoming the oldest person to get a Number 1 single in the UK charts - thanks to his collaboration with Michael Ball on You’ll Never Walk Alone.

A train was named after him, he 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.

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

His fundraising efforts were marked during the New Year drone display in London, as his figure appeared in lights over the O2 Arena.

Just before Christmas, he was back in the news after being flown to Barbados by British Airways with his family - and told reporters how he’d never imagined he’d be able to travel again at his age.

But a month into 2021 his daughter Hannah revealed he’d been admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

A spokeswoman for his family confirmed he had not yet received his coronavirus vaccine due to pneumonia medication he was on.

Capt Sir Tom Moore is survived by his daughters Hannah and Lucy, and his grandchildren Benji, Georgia, TT and Max.