Capt Sir Tom Moore, the Second World War veteran who found a place in the hearts of the British nation after raising millions of pounds for health service workers, has died aged 100.
His family on Tuesday posted a picture of the charity hero with the words 'Captain Sir Tom Moore 1920-2021' on his official Twitter page. His family had revealed on Sunday that he had been admitted to Bedford Hospital in central England after testing positive for Covid-19. He had been suffering with pneumonia for the past few weeks so had been unable to receive a vaccine dose. He had also been treated for prostate and skin cancer during the past five years.
'Captain Tom', as he became known, became a national treasure after shuffling up and down his garden in a determined charity walk.
His endeavour and wit spread joy amid the grim news of the coronavirus outbreak: his message to the world was that the sun would shine again and that the clouds would clear.
He set out to raise £1,000 for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his inspirational quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic. Donations poured in from across Britain and as far away as the United States and Japan, raising some £33 million ($40m).
For three weeks in April, fans were greeted with daily videos of Capt Moore, stooped with age, doggedly pushing his walker in the garden. But it was his sunny attitude during a dark moment that inspired people to look beyond illness and loss.
“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Capt Moore said in an interview during his walk, uttering the words that became his trademark.
When Capt Moore finished his 100th lap on April 16, a military honour guard lined the path. The celebration continued on his 100th birthday a few days later, when two Second World War-era fighter planes flew overhead in tribute. Capt Moore, a plaid blanket over his shoulders, pumped a fist as they roared past.
His daughters Hannah and Lucy said: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear father, Captain Sir Tom Moore.
"We are so grateful that we were with him during the last hours of his life; Hannah, Benjie and Georgia by his bedside and Lucy on FaceTime. We spent hours chatting to him, reminiscing about our childhood and our wonderful mother. We shared laughter and tears together.
"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.
"The care our father received from the NHS and carers over the last few weeks and years of his life has been extraordinary. They have been unfalteringly professional, kind and compassionate and have given us many more years with him than we ever would have imagined.
"Over the past few days our father spoke a great deal about the last 12 months and how proud he felt at being able to leave behind the growing legacy of his Foundation.
"We politely ask for privacy at this time so we can grieve quietly as a family and remember the wonderful 100 years our father had. Thank you."
In July, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II during a socially distanced ceremony at Windsor Castle, west of London. The monarch, 94, used an impossibly long sword to confer the honour as Moore, wearing his wartime medals on his chest, leaned on his walker and beamed.
“I have been overwhelmed by the many honours I have received over the past weeks, but there is simply nothing that can compare to this,″ he tweeted after the ceremony. “I am overwhelmed with pride and joy.”
The Queen will send a private message of condolence to Capt Moore's family, Buckingham Palace said.
"Her Majesty very much enjoyed meeting Cpt Sir Tom and his family at Windsor last year," a palace statement said.
"Her thoughts, and those of the Royal Family, are with them, recognising the inspiration he provided for the whole nation and others across the world."
Liz Lees, chief nurse of Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where Capt Tom had been treated, said: "It has been our immense privilege to care for Capt Sir Tom Moore.
"We share our deepest condolences and sympathies with his family and loved ones at this incredibly sad time. We'd also like to say thank you, and pay tribute to Capt Sir Tom Moore for the remarkable contribution he has made to the NHS."
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock described him as a national hero.
The Captain Tom Foundation, which launched in September, said: "We are heartbroken by the passing of our founder and inspiration Capt Sir Tom Moore.
"As well as uniting the nation and giving hope when it was needed most he has been our beacon of light every single day.
"He was so passionate about the Foundation's vision for a more hopeful world and equal society and was immensely proud of the growing legacy it was establishing in his name."
Born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on April 30, 1920, Capt Moore completed an apprenticeship in civil engineering before being drafted into the army during the early months of the Second World War. After being selected for officer training, he rose to the rank of captain while serving in India, Burma and Sumatra.
After leaving the army in 1946, Capt Moore went to work for the family construction firm. After that failed, he became a salesman and later a manager for building materials companies. When the concrete company he was working for was threatened with closure, Capt Moore rounded up a group of investors and bought it, preserving 60 jobs.
Along the way, he divorced his first wife and fell in love with his employer’s office manager Pamela. The couple married, had two daughters and eventually retired to Spain, but returned to England after Pamela became ill.
After his wife died in 2006, Capt Moore moved to the village of Marston Mortaine in Bedfordshire to live with his younger daughter Hannah and her family.
The former motorcycle racer finally slowed down after he fell and broke his hip in 2018. A walker replaced the Skoda Yeti he drove until he was 98, but he kept on moving.
During a backyard barbecue in early April of last year, Capt Moore’s family challenged him to walk the entire length of the 25-metre driveway. After he made it to the end, his son-in-law encouraged him to keep going, offering to pay £1 for every lap and suggesting a goal of 100 laps by Capt Moore’s 100th birthday.
Things snowballed from there. Capt Moore thought he might be able to raise £1,000 for the doctors and nurses who took care of him after he broke his hip, and his family used social media to publicise “Capt Tom Moore’s 100th birthday walk for the NHS.” A local radio reporter called first, then national broadcasters. Soon, international media were waiting outside the garden gate.
As he pushed his walker up and down the path, people facing the first lockdown of the pandemic watched online. Soon #TomorrowWillBeAGoodDay was trending on Twitter.
“People told me that there was something about my little walk that captured the hearts of those still in shock at the crisis,” Capt Moore wrote in his autobiography. “With a rising number of deaths and the prospect of months of lockdown, everyone was desperate for good news. Apparently, a 99-year-old former Army captain who’d fought in Burma, was recovering from a broken hip, and doing his bit for the NHS was just what they needed.”
Prince Harry, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and dozens of celebrities cheered for him.
But it was the public that embraced Captain Tom, flooding the village post office with some 6,000 gifts and 140,000 birthday cards.
He was made an honorary member of the England cricket team, had a train named after him and was recognised with the Freedom of the City of London award.
Moore enjoyed the accolades but remained focused on others.
He dedicated his autobiography Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day, to "all those who serve on the front line of any battle — be it military, psychological or medical.''
In the end, Capt Moore urged the public to look after one another and he thanked the country he inspired for inspiring him.
“I felt a little frustrated and disappointed after I broke my hip and it knocked my confidence,” he said after completing his trek. “However, the past three weeks have put a spring back in my step. I have renewed purpose and have thoroughly enjoyed every second of this exciting adventure, but I can’t keep walking forever.”