Tom Moore, a national symbol of hope for British citizens throughout the pandemic, died today from COVID-19, the New York Times reports. The 100-year-old Army veteran, known as Captain Tom for his military rank, raised $45 million for the British healthcare system and even recorded a chart-topping song. But Captain Tom was more than just a late-arriving national sensation, and he lived a life full of great feats.
Moore rose to fame last year when he decided to take on a challenge of walking around the garden of his home in London. His daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, filmed those walks and started a fundraiser for the National Health Service.
The initial goal was to raise a mere £1,000 by walking 100 laps around the garden before his 100th birthday. The videos of the challenge went viral. But the fun didn’t stop there. He was appointed honorary colonel by the Army Foundation College, and became Sir Tom when knighted by Queen Elizabeth II last year. He also recorded a hit song on BBCs breakfast show by singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with Michael Ball.
Moore was born in 1920 in Keighley, West Riding of Yorkshire, England. As the Telegraph reports, he took an early interest in engineering and started a civil engineering apprenticeship while in school. Moore wasn’t like the other kids. As Motorcycle News reported, he wasn’t given toys to play with, but things like wood, nails and a hammer.
He also became an avid motorcyclist in his early years thanks to a daredevil uncle. Motorcycling was still a very dangerous activity in those days, and daring motorcyclists attempted amazing stunts. Some of his uncle’s feats would be impressive even today. From Motorcycle News:
“One of his tricks was to ride across the local canal on a plank just 6 in wide. He was also seen riding through town while reading a newspaper, seemingly with perfect control of the machine.”
So Captain Tom definitely had inspiration for his own motorcycling quests. At 12 years old he purchased his first bike, a real beater of a Royal Enfield, from Motorcycle News:
“My first motorcycle was a 1921 Royal Enfield 200 that I found in a barn in Riddlesden and bought for half a crown,” Tom remembers. “The tyres were flat, it was covered in dust and it didn’t run because the piston was seized. I was 12. I’d been brought up with bikes and without anyone’s help I got it going.”
Even now he remembers the time fondly, with his daughter, Lucy Teixeira adding: “Whenever my father talks about his motorcycle years he lights up. He absolutely loves motorcycles.”
That Royal Enfield is in the National Motorcycle Museum in Britain.
His love of machines remained unbroken, even as the world was enveloped in World War II. Moore was was conscripted in the Duke of Wellington regiment and sent off to India. His motorcycling skills played a major role during the war in Burma. His skills translated to being able to deliver messages through an ever-dangerous war zone. Moore spread his love of motorcycles to other soldiers, teaching them the needed skills.
After the war ended, Moore continued riding. As Yorkshire Live reports, he raced motorcycles built by engineer Alfred Angas Scott. Moore rode the Scott Flying Squirrel bearing the number 23.
He considered racing in the challenging Isle of Man TT at some point, too, via Motorcycle News:
“If there was an event I could have competed in but didn’t was the TT,” says Tom. “I really thought about it but I’m not suitable - I’m a mudplugger not a racer, a foolish thought. I’ve been to spectate though and I have huge respect for what they do.”
Captain Tom lived a colorful life and helped hold together a nation in a major crisis. He was an inspiration that we hope will be remembered in the history books.