Captain Sir Tom Moore, the UK World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for health care workers, has died after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 100.
His family announced his death on Twitter, posting a picture of him in a happy moment, ready for adventure.
“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,” the family’s statement said. “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.’’
Captain Tom, as he became known around the world, set out to raise 1000 pounds ($1796) for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) by walking 100 laps of his backyard. His quest caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic. Donations poured in from around the world, raising around $57 million.
For three weeks in April 2020, fans were greeted with daily videos of Sir Tom, stooped with age, pushing his walker in the garden. His sunny attitude inspired people to look beyond illness and loss.
“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” he said in an interview during his walk. The words became his trademark*.
When he completed his 100th lap on April 16, a military honour guard lined the path. The celebration continued on his birthday a few days later. Two World War II-era fighter planes flew overhead in tribute*. Sir Tom, a tartan blanket over his shoulders, pumped a fist as they roared past.
In July, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in a socially distanced ceremony at Windsor Castle, her first public event since the outbreak began.
“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.”
Queen Elizabeth II plans a private message of condolence* to the family, Buckingham Palace said.
“Her Majesty very much enjoyed meeting Capt. Sir Tom and his family at Windsor last year,″ the palace said in a statement. “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.”
Flags were lowered at UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office. Mr Johnson described Sir Tom as a “hero in the truest sense of the word.″
Born in 1920, Sir Tom completed an apprenticeship in civil engineering before being drafted into the army during the early months of World War II. He rose to the rank of captain while serving in India, Burma and Sumatra.
After leaving the army in 1946, Sir Tom worked for the family building company and then for building materials companies. When the concrete company he was working for looked like it would close, he organised a group of investors and bought it, preserving 60 jobs.
After his second wife died in 2006 he moved to live with his youngest of two daughters, Hannah, and her family. The former motorcycle racer slowed down at age 98 after he fell and broke his hip in 2018, but he kept moving.
During a backyard barbecue in early April, 2020, his family challenged him to walk the 25m length of the driveway. After he made it to the end, his son-in-law encouraged him to keep going, offering to pay one pound for every lap and suggesting a goal of 100 laps by Sir Tom’s 100th birthday.
The challenge snowballed* from there.
He thought he might be able to raise 1000 pounds ($1796) for the doctors and nurses who took care of him after he broke his hip, and his family used social media to publicise “Captain 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 garden’s path, people facing the UK’s 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,” Sir Tom 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 celebrities cheered for him and the public flooded the village post office with gifts and 140,000 birthday cards. Sir Tom marvelled that anyone would spend money on a card for him, and then put on a mask to wait in line at a post office to mail it.
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.
Sir Tom enjoyed the fuss 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, he urged the public to look after one another and 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.”
- rejuvenated: made like new again
- trademark: something to be recognised by
- tribute: act, statement or gift to show respect or awe
condolence: expression of sympathy
- snowballed: gathered size or speed as it went along
- trending: popular, getting noticed
- honorary: awarded as an honour, rather than by the usual qualifications
- Which war did Sir Tom serve in?
- When was he born?
- How much money did he raise?
- Who was the money for?
- Describe how the walk benefited Sir Tom’s own wellbeing.
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1. Write the Queen’s Letter
Imagine you are Queen Elizabeth. What would you write in your message or letter of condolence to Sir Tom’s family? Write the message or a letter.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English
Sir Tom was a 100-year-old man who lived in England. What do you think he can teach or inspire in kids like you in Australia? Create an artwork, piece of writing, a song, a poster, a meme, an animation, a design for a memorial or anything you would like. Your work should be inspired by what you think kids in Australia can learn from Sir Tom.
Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Music, Design and Technologies, Visual Communication Design, Civics and Citizenship, Personal and Social Capability
Wondrous Wow Words
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.