Captain Tom: The war veteran who captured the heart of the nation

Second World War veteran Captain Tom Moore won the hearts of the British nation when he decided, aged 99, to walk 100 laps of his garden to help the NHS.

His determination captured the public imagination during the coronavirus crisis and within days he had raised tens of millions of pounds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was looking at ways to recognise Capt Moore’s “heroic efforts”, the Duke of Cambridge praised him as a “one-man fundraising machine” and he released a charity single.

His cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone, together with singer Michael Ball, reached number one in the charts, making him the oldest artist ever to have a UK number one single.

Capt Moore was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on April 30 1920.

He attended Keighley Grammar School and 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.

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 and worked as an instructor at the Armoured Fighting Vehicle School in Bovington, Dorset.

He lived in Kent for many years before moving to Bedfordshire to be with his family in 2007.

Coronavirus – Tue Apr 28, 2020
A mural that has been created to pay tribute to NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore in Tamworth (Jacob King/PA)

Capt Moore 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 decided to walk 100 laps of his garden in Marston Moretaine before his 100th birthday to raise funds.

Capt Moore started his challenge in early April 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.

“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 for as long as donations continue to pour in, and his family said they would support him to keep doing this, with his fundraising total now approaching £30 million.

Coronavirus – Mon Apr 27, 2020
Birthday cards for Captain Tom Moore arrive at Bedford School (Joe Giddens/PA)

A long list of celebrities have praised Capt Moore’s 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.

Capt Moore was the guest of honour at the opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber in Harrogate, set up to help with increased numbers of hospital admissions during the pandemic, and he appeared by video link.

So many people sent him cards to mark his hundredth birthday on Thursday that a dedicated sorting office was set up at his grandson’s school, with more than 125,000 cards received.

He was also honoured with a Royal Mail postmark, a Great Western Railway train has been named after him and an RAF flypast including a Spitfire is planned for him on his birthday.

He plans to spend his birthday with his family.

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