Knighted by the Queen for pandemic heroism, Captain Tom was already a hero for most of his life.
Lifelong motorcycle enthusiast and British national hero Captain Sir Tom Moore, has died after contracting COVID-19. He was 100 years old, and raised both the UK’s and the world’s spirit as a hero up to the very end.
Captain Tom made international headlines in 2020 as he offered his message of hope and self-sacrifice to a COVID-19-traumatised public. This absolute legend used the occasion of his 100th birthday to raise money for the National Health Service (NHS) to fight the novel coronavirus. Captain Tom raised an astonishing £32,796,155 (or $44,769,539) in total after pledging to walk 100 laps of his garden to encourage donations.
The Queen later knighted Captain Tom in honour of his service to his country, specifically calling out the impressive amount of money he’d raised for the NHS. The thing is this, though: Captain Sir Tom Moore had, in fact, been a hero for most of his life.
Close family and friends, of course, knew this all along. It was only after Captain Tom’s extraordinary COVID-19 fundraising efforts that the rest of the world came to know of his exploits. ITV even produced a documentary that told his life story—including how much of it he’d spent in the saddles of various motorbikes.
As a young boy, Captain Tom grew up riding motorcycles. Under the tutelage of his moto-enthusiast Uncle Billy, who lived next door, young Tom first learned the ropes. His very first bike was a 1921 Royal Enfield 200 with a seized piston, which he fixed up and made rideable when he was just 12 years old.
Now, according to Tom’s recollection, he did this particular repair all on his own. However, Uncle Billy absolutely encouraged his interest in bikes, and was the kind of guy who had a shed full of spare parts that he might (or might not) share.
Family encouragement didn’t stop there, either. When he was a little bit older, Tom’s dad bought him a BAC 600 side valve so he could commute to and from Bradford Technical College. Sadly, Uncle Billy passed away after a gas fume garage mishap in 1935, but his influence on young Captain Tom would live on.
When the war broke out in 1939, Tom found himself conscripted, and became a dispatch rider in what was then called Burma. He was entrusted with delivering important messages on his motorcycle, riding through some challenging jungle terrain.
After returning home after The War, Captain Tom was still an avid rider—and took up riding Scotts, like Uncle Billy had done before him. In 2020, staff at the nearby Bradford Industrial Museum discovered a 1912 Scott Flying Squirrel that Captain Tom had won races on in the 1950s, along with a cache of racing photos. You can see one of them here, with Captain Tom holding several trophies he’d won astride this very bike. His lifelong love of bikes remained until the end, and he still subscribed to at least two motorcycle magazines throughout his life.
Captain Tom was hospitalised on Sunday after having tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week of January, 2021. Due to ongoing treatment for pneumonia, his family said he could not safely receive a COVID vaccination.
Memorial services were held on Wednesday, 3 February, 2021. Heartfelt messages poured in from all over, including from Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The White House even sent out an official tweet to honour Captain Tom’s memory.
Captain Sir Tom Moore is survived by his daughters, Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira. We at RideApart and Motor1 send our condolences and heartfelt gratitude to his friends, family, and all who loved him. Captain Tom was truly an inspiration to us all.