For a man who received 230,000 birthday cards, 100,000 letters and 6,500 presents on his 100th birthday, Captain Tom Moore is rather modest. “It hasn’t gone to our heads”, he laughs, deflecting his successes back to his family: “Without [them] I’d be completely lost.”
Captain, then Colonel, now Sir Tom became internationally known almost overnight when he set out to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday in April. The campaign went viral, he reached his target within 24 hours and, by his birthday just eight days later, he had raised over £30 million (a figure that climbed to £32.8 million by the time the campaign closed). It took 140 volunteers six weeks to sort through the mountains of cards, ginger cakes and “huge Stilton cheeses” that poured in from around the world in the aftermath, wellwishers heartened by a glimmer of good news in a time of global darkness.
Sir Tom, who since April has nominally become the nation’s grandfather, sits in front of me on Zoom one morning with his younger daughter, Hannah, 49. He moved to Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire with the management consultancy director and her husband Colin, 16-year-old Benji and Georgia, 11, 12 years ago, following the death of his wife Pamela; humour is clearly an integral part of their household, with plenty of gentle ribbing between them over the course of our call. Dapper in his now-trademark navy blue blazer and medals won for his service in India and Burma (now Myanmar) in the Second World War – lockdown certainly hasn’t meant dressing down – he is replete with tales from their family of five, who will tomorrow join the nation in celebrating Fathers’ Day in lockdown for the first time.
Being part of something bigger is a cherished part of life for Sir Tom, who married Pamela when he was 48 (and she 33), in 1968. Two daughters came soon after: Lucy, now 51, and Hannah; alongside the teens in his midst are his eldest’s two boys, Tom (one of many in the family) and Max, 19 and 22. They usually see each other often but, like most families, have had to resort to virtual communication over the past few months: “Every time I see them they seem to have grown up another few inches,” he says. When lockdown ends, he is sure, “they’ll be appearing in full size.”