HAYES IN THE HOUSE: Captain Tom's fortitude knew no bounds
In Britain’s long history, few men’s crowning accomplishment has come at the age of 99.
Yet, on the eve of his centenary, Captain Tom Moore’s determination to lift the spirits of a frightened, grieving nation, won the hearts of the people.
Setting out on a mission to walk 100 laps of his garden in 10 days – no small endeavour for a man who had broken his hip, received a double knee replacement and been treated for skin cancer (!) – his fortitude knew no bounds.
Who then would have predicted the rise to stardom of a man who had previously come no closer to fame than a brief appearance on the
television programme Blankety Blank?
By the time his 100th lap was complete, Sir Tom – impeccably clad in his medal-emblazoned blazer and flanked by a guard of honour – had raised an astonishing £33million for good causes.
This gargantuan effort was movingly marked, as the Queen emerged for her first public appearance since the beginning of national lockdown to confer a knighthood on Tom Moore in the quadrant at Windsor Castle.
Such was the affectionate admiration for Sir Tom, that he received over 180,000 birthday cards, subsequently displayed in in the Great Hall of Bedford School.
Quite why fate chose to elevate Captain Tom as a beacon of hope at a moment of calamity, we will never know, but his warmth and optimism; positivity and humility exemplified the courage and dignity of the wartime generation.
That generation, which endured the battlefields of Europe, conflict in the jungles of Burma and the bombs of the blitz, weren’t twisted by bitterness, instead embracing a renewed appreciation for the small wonders of life. It was in just such a spirit that, in responding to recognition, the frail, elderly fundraiser said:
‘“People keep saying what I have done is remarkable; however, it’s actually what you have done for me which is remarkable. The past three weeks have put a spring back in my step.”
Captain Tom Moore’s legacy will continue through his newly-established foundation, missioned to combat loneliness. But more than that, his memory will live on as an enduring example of dedication, deference and duty.
When, last week, the nation clapped for Sir Tom, the deputy speaker asked parliamentarians in the chamber of the House of Commons to pause in his memory. In that moment, sitting on the green benches there, I reflected on President Kennedy’s wise counsel, that each of us should:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Sir Tom’s answer was straightforward – to proudly ‘do his bit’ for Britain.