“He epitomised the indomitable spirit of our wartime generation and was a true inspiration to millions of people worldwide during some of the most challenging of times in recent history, bringing the nation together in celebration of his fundraising efforts.” The heart-warming tribute from Her Majesty the Queen to Captain Sir Tom Moore on his death earlier this month whose funeral took place today.
The Army veteran won the nation's hearts by walking 100 laps of his garden in Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire last year during the first lockdown, raising money for NHS Charities Together.
Sometimes, in a time of crisis a nation needs hope and heroes and sometimes they're found in unlikely places - and when Britain first locked down against the coronavirus pandemic, it discovered Captain Sir Tom Moore.
In April 2020 the then 99-year-old war veteran accepted a little family challenge: to raise £1,000 for health service charities by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of that month.
He epitomised the indomitable spirit of our wartime generation and was a true inspiration to millions of people worldwide during some of the most challenging of times in recent history Her Majesty the Queen
"One small soul like me won't make much difference," he declared in his first TV interview.
He could not have been more wrong and to mark his 100th birthday soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment lined the driveway at his home as he completed his 100th lap.
By the time he closed his fundraising page at midnight on his 100th birthday, Captain Sir Tom had raised more than £32m from more than one-and-a-half-million global donors.
But that was just the beginning - a knighthood, RAF flypast to mark him turning 100 and personal greetings from the Queen and prime minister soon followed.
And he even became the oldest person ever to score a number one single in the UK, when he and Michael Ball sang a cover of You'll Never Walk Alone.
He was also made Honorary Colonel at the Army Foundation College (AFC) in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, where he acted as the Inspecting Officer at a Passing out Parade for Junior Soldiers (JS) last year.
And one of Captain Sir Tom’s lasting legacies is the impact he had on the young soldiers at the College six whom were granted the privilege of forming the honour guard at today’s funeral to fulfil the wishes of the late serviceman’s family.
17-year-old JS Amy Carr, from Newcastle, said: “It was an honour to be a part of the day. I’m speechless, to be honest. I remember that he had so much courage. He smashed it! The money he raised would have made such a difference.”
JS Molly Chaplain, 16, from Ipswich was a member of the Honour Guard formed by six Junior Soldiers from AFC Harrogate.
He said: “I’m five months into training to join the Royal Artillery and was so surprised to be asked to take part in Captain Sir Tom’s funeral. My first thought was why me? I feel so very honoured to be involved.
“I’m a little saddened I never met him personally but would’ve loved to; I would have asked him what drove him to do what he did? His selfless commitment inspires me to do the best I can, something we can all take through our military careers.”
Lance Corporal Cory Lee, 25, from Middlesbrough, was in charge of the section of recruits from AFC Harrogate and met Captain Sir Tom when he visited Harrogate in September having been made Honorary Colonel.
The thing that binds Captain Sir Tom and the soldiers here is that spirit of service. Lt Col Simon Farebrother MC
“It was lovely to meet him very chatty talked about my careers. Fantastic achievement in what he has done in his lifetime. Never met any one of that Cali tea before he was very humble and down to earth. At 100 I didn’t expect him to look as healthy as he was. He makes me want to be a better soldier and inspired me to become an instructor to inspire others.”
Lieutenant Colonel Simon Farebrother MC, Commanding Officer (CO) of the AFC, said: “Captain Sir Tom was a generous, warm soul. Just a lovely person to have around.
“He came to the College twice. Everyone found that he was a hugely optimistic person, he loved being around the military environment. He was amazed at the development we put into these young people. The thing that binds Captain Sir Tom and the soldiers here is that spirit of service.”
The Yorkshire Regiment has a special connection with Captain Sir Tom, as the successor unit to the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, with whom the Keighley-born hero served in WWII.
Musician Alex Browne, 24, who serves with the Band of the Yorkshire Regiment, played the Last Post at the funeral.
The Leeds College of Music graduate said: “I was inspired, like the whole nation, by Captain Tom’s fundraising effort. I was honoured to be able to play and remember him.”
Regimental Sergeant Major Jamie Pearson, 40, from Rotherham was the Beater Party Commander and said: “This will be my last act as RSM of 1 Yorks and I genuinely mean this, I couldn’t imagine a more honourable act on which to finish my tenure as RSM.
“I met him in his back garden and was privileged to command the Honour Guard when he achieved his 100th lap. We chatted about having joined the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment.”
RSM Pearson joined the then Duke of Wellingtons Regiment that subsequently amalgamated to become the Yorkshire Regiment.
Private Harvey Iveson, 19, from Driffield in East Yorkshire was a member of the Firing Party and said: “We got told at short notice we could be doing Captain Sir Tom Moore’s funeral and everyone in the Regiment was saying I want to do it I want to do it, then when the people were chosen it felt such a great honour.
“He did so much for the nation through a time of real struggle and raised so much for the NHS. He brought such admiration to our Regiment and we were there to give him the send-off he deserves. His service in World War Two and what he has done through this pandemic raising £33million for the NHS is to be shined on.”
Another legacy for Captain Sir Tom will be the Through the Trees for Tom campaign, a "legacy forest" which will be planted by The Woodland Trust in this country and TreeSisters internationally
As well as lifting the nation's spirits Captain Sir Tom’s saying "Tomorrow will be a good day" will be his everlasting epitaph.