Obituary: Yorkshire-born war veteran and 100-year-old NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore

Captain Sir Tom Moore was a Yorkshire-born war veteran who raised the spirits of a nation still stunned by the coronavirus pandemic when he embarked, aged 99, on 100 laps of his garden to help the NHS in the run-up to his own centenary.

His determination captured the public imagination and within weeks he had raised tens of millions of pounds.

The Queen’s first official engagement in person after the first lockdown lifted was to knight Sir Tom in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sir Tom’s “heroic efforts have lifted the spirits of the entire nation”, the Duke of Cambridge praised him as a “one-man fundraising machine” and he even released a charity single.

The charity fundraiser was taken to Bedford Hospital on Sunday after being treated for pneumonia for some time and testing positive for coronavirus last week.

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.

A flypast of a Spitfire and a Hurricane marked his 100th birthday on April 30, and he was made an honorary colonel.

Speaking about the flypast, Sir Tom said: “I’m one of the few people here who’ve seen Hurricanes and Spitfires flying past in anger.

“Fortunately today they’re all flying peacefully.”

He raised a total of £32.7m, with donations from 1.5 million supporters, before his fundraising page was closed at midnight following his 100th birthday.

He started his challenge a little over three weeks earlier, and he encouraged people to continue to donate to NHS Charities Together.

Sir Tom rounded off 2020 with a trip to Barbados with his family, and his fundraising efforts were marked during the New Year drone display in London, as his figure appeared over the O2 Arena.

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

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

Sir Tom suffered a broken hip in 2018 and also required treatment for skin cancer on his 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.

Sir Tom started his challenge in early April 2020 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 £20m.

“It really is absolutely enormous isn’t it?” he said at the time.

“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, and did so until his birthday.

A long list of celebrities praised Sir Tom’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.

Sir Tom 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 100th birthday that a dedicated sorting office was set up at his grandson’s school.

He was sent more than 140,000 birthday cards, including a signed card from the Queen, when he reached his century.

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.

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

The Captain Tom Foundation was established by his family to “spread hope and ease loneliness”, and his Walk With Tom campaign had the same goal during England’s second lockdown in November 2020.

Sir Tom helped raise spirits during the coronavirus crisis, saying in one TV appearance: “To all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment: The sun will shine on you again, and the clouds will go away.”

His motto was “tomorrow will be a good day”.

Sir Tom died today aged 100.