From Burma to Blankety Blank: The extraordinary life of twice-married Captain Sir Tom Moore, the WWII hero who became a quiz show star before capturing the nation’s hearts by walking 100 laps of his garden to raise £33m for the NHS

  • Grandfather-of-four’s service in WWII took him across Asia and Far East, including tours in India and Burma 
  • Yorkshire grammar school lad shot to national attention in 1983, when he charmed audience on BBC show
  • Wrote movingly in his biography about his sexless first marriage, which he called ‘the darkest time in my life’ 
  • Wouldn’t fine true love until 50 when he met his beloved second wife, Pamela, with whom he had two children 

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s death today aged 100 marks the close of an extraordinary life that saw him go from WWII hero to quiz show star and then a national treasure after walking 100 laps of his garden to raise £33m for the NHS.

The grandfather-of-four’s service in World War Two took him across Asia and the Far East, including tours in India, Burma and Sumatra.

Back in Blighty, spells as an Army tank instructor were interspersed with work at the family building business – while in his spare time he enjoyed riding motorbikes.

The Yorkshire grammar school lad was to shoot to national attention in 1983, when he charmed the audience on hit BBC show Blankety Blank.

Finally, he would be knighted by the Queen, made an honorary member of the England cricket team, and be lauded by Britain’s best-known celebrities and politicians. 

But though his family today rightly recalled his life as an ‘exciting adventure’ it also saw darker moments, including a sexless first marriage that ended in annulment.

In his autobiography, Captain Tom said he had ‘given up on love’ until aged 50 when he met his beloved second wife, Pamela. They were to have two children, and the veteran went on to become a proud grandfather of four. 

Sir Tom Moore (pictured front) along with his grandchildren Benji (left), Georgia (middle left), his daughter Hannah (middle right) and her husband Colin Ingram (right) as they enjoyed the Barbados sunshine. This was to be the final photo of the veteran before his death today 

Colonel Tom pictured during the Second World War. Boris Johnson described him as a national treasure during the Covid-19 crisis after raising almost £33million for the NHS

Captain Tom receiving his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony at Windsor Castle. He raised almost £33m.

Captain Moore is pictured front centre during his days in the Army. He joined the Armed Forces in 1940 when he was aged 20

Captain 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 also worked for his family’s building company and later became manager at a concrete company.

In his free time he was a keen motorcycle racer and has admitted receiving a speeding fine while in his late 90s. He also appeared on popular BBC television quiz show Blankety Blank in 1983.

He wrote frankly about a sexless first marriage that ended in annulment.

Although Moore was 50 when they met, he had a 40-year marriage with his second wife, Pamela, and visited her every day while she was in a care home with dementia.

In a BBC interview, he spoke of his distress about her mental deterioration and pity for other residents who had no visitors.

After she died, he moved in with his daughter, Hannah, and his son-in-law Colin Ingram and grandchildren Benji and Georgia in the village of Marston Moretaine. 

Captain Tom 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.

Captain 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 £20 million.

‘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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his ‘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. 

A long list of celebrities praised Captain 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.   

Captain Tom with a Scott bike after the war. It was made in Shipley and he said he raced in Yorkshire after the war

he then Colonel Tom, aged 63, charm the audience as he chatted to the late Terry Wogan, while appearing on Blankety Blank 

In an interview with the magazine , Captain Tom opened up about his 20-year first marriage, his beloved late wife’s battle with dementia, and how he wants to be there for ‘lonely people in need of help

Captain Tom’s triumph sparked off an extraordinary few months for the veteran which saw him feted as a national treasure. 

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, and he was made an honorary colonel.

Speaking about the flypast, Captain 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 £32.7 million, 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.

Captain 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. 

He 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. 

Captain Tom’s daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore, a recruitment officer, from Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire, revealed the fundraising idea came about after her husband Colin challenged his father-in-law to to do 100 laps before his birthday

Captain Sir Thomas Moore poses for the media after receiving his knighthood from the Queen at a ceremony at Windsor Castle in July

His family announced Captain Tom had died at 4.05pm today with this social media post celebrating his life from 1920 -2021

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.

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

‘People keep saying what I have done is remarkable, however it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable,’ he said at the time.

‘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.’

His daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore said on his 100th birthday: ‘I think we know that he has touched the hearts of many people around the world.

‘He’s definitely engaged us all and given us hope and unity.

‘So, there will be legacy.’

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.

Captain 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, which signed off many posts from his popular Twitter account, was ‘tomorrow will be a good day’.

Captain Tom died today aged 100.

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