Captain Sir Tom Moore, famously known as ‘Captain Tom’ was a British WW2 veteran, and became a national treasure aged 99 years. This is Captain Tom’s remarkable story.
Captain Tom was born on April 30th 1920 in Keighley, West Yorkshire, where he spent many years growing up. His father, Wilfred was a builder and his mother, Isabella was a headteacher. Captain Tom went to Keighley Grammar School followed by completing an apprenticeship in civil engineering.
Moore was conscripted in May 1940 to the 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (8 DWR) eight months after the Second World War started, where he was stationed in Cornwall. Later that year, he completed his officer training and attended an Officer Cadet Training Unit. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on June 28th 1941. In October 1941, Moore became a member of the Royal Armoured Corps and later he was transferred to the 9th Battalion (9 DWR) where we worked in India. Whilst in India, Tom set up and ran a training program for army motorcyclists.
The following October, Tom was promoted to war-substantive lieutenant and to a Captain!
Captain Tom served in the Fourteenth Army, often called the ‘Forgotten Army’ as their efforts were often overlooked by the press. Here he served in Arakan, South-East Asia and later returned to the UK in February 1945. Upon arriving home, Moore took up his next challenge in learning to be an instructor for the inner mechanics of the Churchill tanks. He remained as an instructor until he was demobilised in 1946 but continued to organise DWR’s annual reunions for the following 64 years.
After the war, Captain Tom worked his way up to become a managing director of Carwood Concrete Products Ltd. and was an avid motorcycle racer. Moore raced competitively winning several trophies. He purchased his first motorcycle at just age 12! Moore went on to follow in his Fathers footsteps by being a member of the Keighley and District Photographic Association.
At aged 48, Tom married Pamela and they went on to have two daughters, Lucy and Hannah. They lived in Welney, Norfolk and the girls had a lovely upbringing. He also went on to make his TV debut in 1983 on the BBC’s Christmas Day edition of the game show, Blankety Blank.
Pamela and Tom retired to the Costa del Sol, Spain, where they made some happy memories. Pamela’s health began to deteriorate in her 60s as she was diagnosed with a form of dementia, therefore they returned to the UK. After years of Tom caring for Pamela, she was moved to a nursing home where Moore would visit every day until her passing in 2006. Captain Tom moved in with his daughter Hannah, her husband and his two grandchildren in Bedfordshire in 2008.
In 2018, after a bad fall, Captain Tom broke his hip, rib and punctured his lung leaving him with lasting injuries. He was still in recovery from these injuries when the nation met him in 2020.
On April 6th 2020, at 99 years old and in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore started his mission. He aimed to complete a hundred 25 metre lengths of his garden, doing ten lengths every day, before his 100th birthday. He wanted to raise money for NHS Charities Together with the aim of £1000 – a great achievement for anyone. With the support of his walking frame, he started his mission, later branded “Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk for the NHS”.
The initial goal of £1000, changed to £5000 then eventually £500,000 as his story captured the hearts of our nation. Captain Tom went on to make social media pages this month where he expressed his joy in the public’s generosity and the huge support he was getting.
On the morning of April 16th 2020, Captain Tom reached his 100 lengths where he was watched by a guard of honour from the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. Captain Tom was determined despite his mission finishing, to carry on!
To mark Moore’s mission, singer Michael Ball sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” for him live on BBC Breakfast. Within 24 hours, the performance was made into a digital single featuring Captain Tom’s spoken words and the NHS Voices of Care Choir. All proceeds went to NHS Charities Together. It sold over 35,000 copies in its first 48 hours ad topped the UK’s Official Big Top 40 Chart. It went straight to number 1 on Moore’s 100th birthday beating the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” making him the oldest person to achieve a UK number one hit!
On the morning of his 100th birthday, April 30th 2020, Captain Tom’s JustGiving page campaign closed. The final amount raised was £32,796,475 (plus another £6,173,663.31 under the Gift Aid scheme). This was an all-time record for a JustGiving campaign with over 1.5 million individuals who donated.
His 100th birthday was marked with flypasts by the Royal Air Force and the British Army. He also received over 150,000 birthday cards and he was appointed as honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College.
Instead of the standard 100th birthday message from Queen Elizabeth II, Captain Tom received a personalised card from Her Majesty, hand-delivered by the Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis.
Moore’s funds made a huge difference to so many in the National Health Service. For example, it funded devices to enable hospital patients to keep in contact with family, rest and recuperation rooms and well-being packs. Even after his campaign, Captain Tom encouraged the public to keep donating to NHS Charities Together, and subsequently via his own Captain Tom Foundation.
In July 2020, he was Knighted personally by the Queen at Windsor Castle and in November, Moore was named British GQ’s ‘Inspiration of the Year’, whereby he appeared on the magazines front cover, making him the oldest cover star in the magazine’s history. He also received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award which is given “for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity”. Moore also held two Guinness World Records for raising the greatest amount of money in an individual charity walk, and as the oldest person to have a UK number-one chart-topping single.
Moore released his own autobiography, Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day in September 2020 which was a Sunday Times Best Seller where his profits were also donated to charity. Captain Tom joked that if anyone found the book a bit difficult to read then they could give it to someone they do not like for Christmas.
Unfortunately, Moore’s health started to deteriorate in January 2021 after testing positive with COVID-19. He passed away with his family around him on February 2nd 2021, aged 100.
Captain Sir Tom Moore left an incredible legacy, after being a beaming light of hope for our nation when we most needed it. Captain Tom displayed bravery, selflessness and compassion throughout his life, until the very end. The kindness and determination he displayed was exceptional, making every single moment count. He was a father to two, a grandfather to four, and an inspiration to millions.
Captain Tom, we salute you.