IT was the first sunny Sunday of lockdown when Captain Tom put on his Panama hat and shuffled into the garden.
Holding on to his walker, the 99-year-old took his first steps outside since shattering his hip six months earlier — and his life changed for ever.
Captain Tom Moore raised £32million for the NHSCredit: PA:Press Association
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It was his daughter Hannah who suggested he get out into the sunshine, while his son-in-law Colin sat at the table and grandson Benjie prepared a family barbecue.
Captain Tom recalled: “I hadn’t been outside for weeks because of the wind and rain, so that sounded lovely.
“I carefully shuffled with my walker out of my room, then along the corridor, past the kitchen and out into the sunshine.
“I looked along the full length of our 25-metre driveway and steeled myself. I hadn’t walked that far since I came out of hospital.
“Colin looked up from his phone and said, ‘Go on Tom, you can do it’.
“Stirling Moss wouldn’t have been much impressed by my speed or my style. I plodded forward, one step at a time.
“I was quite chuffed when I reached the end . . . but then I turned and saw how far it was to get back.
“Colin added, ‘Don’t stop. Let’s see how many you can manage. I tell you what, Hannah and I will give you £1 per lap, so why not see if you can do 100 by your hundredth birthday’.
“I laughed then at what I thought was all a bit of a joke. Everyone knew how much difficulty I’d had recently in getting around.
“Who on earth would give me £100 just for walking up and down my drive? Nevertheless, I managed one lap — down and back — and earned myself £1.
“I was tempted to try another lap but I didn’t want to overdo it.
Sir Tom inspired the nation with his incredible fundraising effortsCredit: Mirrorpix
The hero became a shining light in the darkest days of the pandemicCredit: Dan Charity – The Sun
Captain Sir Tom tested positive for coronavirus January 22Credit: AFP or licensors
“Over lunch, Hannah congratulated me on my effort and suggested that if the weather stayed nice, I might try another lap the following day while she looked for some local sponsors.
“She told me, ‘Who knows, if you do enough you might even make £1,000 and give it to a local charity’.
“It was a sound idea but I’d only raised £1 at that point and there were no guarantees that I would get a penny more.”
Six months earlier, Captain Tom, who had fought in Burma in World War Two, had suffered a broken rib, punctured lung and shattered hip in a fall while emptying the dishwasher.
He spent eight weeks in hospital, which inspired him to want to give something back to the NHS.
He said: “In the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic my thoughts turned to the NHS.
“I couldn’t get the idea out of my head after that and later on, alone in my room, I decided to take Colin and Hannah up on the challenge.
“There were 25 days to my birthday and I thought that if I could manage ten laps a day, building up to it slowly, then I might be able to raise as much as £250.
A picture of Captain Tom while he was serving in the ArmyCredit: Reuters
Last July, Captain Tom was knighted by the QueenCredit: Getty Images – Getty
“Hannah watched me plough up and down in my own slow way and knew me well enough to realise that I was now committed to the idea, so she swung into action.
“She wrote a press release and it was sent out locally and she set up a JustGiving page for my efforts.
“Since lockdown we’d heard a lot about NHS Charities Together, an umbrella group of some 250 charitable organisations supporting NHS staff, patients and volunteers.
“They’d recently launched a Covid-19 Urgent Appeal, so we chose that because it seemed to fit best with my original intent.
“Now all we had to do was persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash for a good cause.
“None of us could have imagined in a million years that Hannah’s press release would set an unstoppable ball rolling. I think if Hannah, especially, had known what the next few months held, she might have thought twice about writing that press release.
“Not that we had any regrets but she had no idea that she was opening Pandora’s box.”
On April 6, 2020, the day after his first lap, Captain Tom had raised £11.
Ten days later the total stood at £12million. And by the end of four weeks he would hand over £38.9million to NHS Charities Together, the most ever raised by an individual.
Hannah, 50, says: “I wrote a nothing little press release about this amazing 99-year-old World War Two veteran and how he is going to walk to raise money for the Covid-19 appeal.
“I only ever thought, ‘Let’s make the local community happy’. I thought we would pick up the Bedford Times but four days later, on Good Friday, we were on national television. I thought, ‘No one will watch that, they are all barbecueing’. And we said, ‘Look, no one has got any money. A thousand pounds would be amazing’. Kaboom! It started to rack up.
“Then we went on to Michael Ball’s Radio 2 show and by the time we hit Good Morning Britain we were at £300,000. The next day we had broken £500,000 and Piers Morgan tweeted: “Why stop at £500,000? Let’s go for £1million.”
Captain Tom and family give the thumbs-upCredit: TWITTER/CAPTAIN TOM
Boris Johnson branded Sir Tom a ‘hero in the truest sense of the word’Credit: Dan Charity – The Sun
Captain Tom was made an honorary colonelCredit: PA:Press Association
That £1million target was soon smashed as donations poured in at £5,000 a minute.
After four weeks, an astonishing 1,519,442 people from 163 countries donated an average of £21.58, making a total of £32,796,436. With Gift Aid added, the total hit £38.9million.
Captain Tom said: “People told me there was something about my little walk that captured the hearts of those still in shock at the crisis. 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.”
It was not until you met Captain Tom in person, though, that the enormity of the strain his walk took on him became apparent.
TV viewers always saw the smartly dressed Yorkshireman standing behind his walking frame in the garden of his home in Marston Moretaine, Beds.
Or sitting in a specially adapted chair, medals gleaming on his trademark blazer, doing one of the 700-plus interviews he gave.
This proud man never allowed viewers to see how frail he really was or just how much pain he endured getting from the chair on to his frame, let alone walking each 25-metre lap. He promised his fans he would keep on walking — and that is what he did, almost every day since April.
By his 100th birthday on April 30, Captain Tom had actually done 200 laps — double his target — and earned more per step than world-record sprinter Usain Bolt.
By the time he died, he had walked 25km. He also became the oldest person to have a No1 single, with his cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone, recorded alongside Michael Ball and the NHS Voices Of Care Choir.
Captain Tom was knighted by the Queen and promoted to Colonel by his old regiment as a thank-you from a grateful nation.
His daughter Hannah told The Sun: “If someone had said to a media agency, ‘Here is £10million, go and create the biggest media storm that you can’, they couldn’t have done it, could they
“It was about the love and total integrity of Captain Tom’s message.
“He gave people hope and positivity and it came back in 7,500 birthday presents and in 150,000 letters.
“He received 225,000 birthday cards and they still keep coming.
“We got a box recently that had 300 birthday cards from children in China in it, saying in English, ‘I love you Captain Tom. You are my hero’.”
Captain Tom Moore’s daughter Hannah said his message was about ‘love and total integrity’Credit: EPA
Sir Tom poses on a red carpet for the GQ Men of the Year Awards 2020Credit: Getty Images – Getty
Captain Tom Moore holds two poppies showing his support for the British LegionCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
Two weeks after his walk began, the family received 1.5million emails, crashing their computer system.
And Captain Tom was doing 30 TV and radio interviews a day — gruelling for someone half his age but incredible for a man approaching his 100th birthday. But his biggest concern was the effect all the attention was having on his family.
Hannah remembers: “He was worried that it was getting out of hand and that we would not be able to manage. How could we control it?
“It was really difficult and super-challenging. We didn’t go to bed for two weeks.
“We sat round our kitchen table, drank prosecco and lived off crisps, trying to deal with being at the centre of the world’s biggest media storm. Nothing could prepare you for that.
“Dad was worried for us. He could see that Colin and myself were working so hard. We were literally cat-napping at the table and starting all over again.
“We said to him, ‘Don’t worry, we are OK. We’re not going to make it stop because we shouldn’t make it stop. We’re going to just lock together and find help’.”
Help came from a top PR agency. And it was sorely needed. Within a minute of the firm announcing they were taking over media enquiries, 1,000 emails came in requesting interviews.
Hannah says: “We were just an ordinary family without an extraordinary bone in our bodies.”
An undated picture shows Captain Tom pose with trophies on a motorcycleCredit: Reuters
Captain Sir Tom Moore pictured in Barbados with his familyCredit: TWITTER/CAPTAIN TOM
A nurse shows her love of Captain Tom during Clap for Our Carers during the first lockdownCredit: Getty Images – Getty
In September the family launched the Captain Tom Foundation to support the lonely, bereaved and those suffering from poor mental health, as well as the Royal British Legion.
Hannah said: “Dad knew that 40 per cent of the population will suffer from mental health issues as a fallout of Covid.
“The Captain Tom Foundation is his legacy that will live on. It was his vision to inspire hope where it is needed most.”
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