London: Captain Tom Moore, the British World War II veteran who raised millions of pounds for health service workers on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, has died aged 100, his family said on Tuesday.
Sir Tom was admitted to hospital with coronavirus on Sunday and he had been treated for pneumonia in the weeks prior to testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear father, Captain Sir Tom Moore,” his daughters said in a statement.
On Twitter, Sir Tom’s account was updated with a photograph of the war veteran with the words: Captain Sir Tom Moore, 1920-2021, to signify his passing.
Liz Lees, chief nurse with the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said it had been an “immense privilege” to care for Sir Tom at Bedford Hospital.
“We share our deepest condolences and sympathies with his family and loved ones at this incredibly sad time,” Lees said.
“We’d also like to say thank you, and pay tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore for the remarkable contribution he has made to the NHS.”
Sir Tom became an unlikely hero during Britain’s first wave of the pandemic when he set out to raise £1000 ($1700) for the NHS by pledging to walk 100 laps of his garden with his walking frame by the time he turned 100.
He went on to raise nearly £33 million as the fundraiser – combined with his optimism – captivated the world.
Sir Tom later became the oldest artist to claim No.1 on the British singles charts with a recording of You’ll Never Walk Alone that he recorded with the musical theatre star Michael Ball.
The Captain Tom Foundation said staff were “heartbroken”.
“As well as uniting the nation and giving hope when it was needed most he has been our beacon of light every single day,” the foundation said in a statement.
“He was so passionate about the foundation’s vision for a more hopeful world and equal society and was immensely proud of the growing legacy it was establishing in his name.”
“Thank you, Captain Sir Tom. Because of you tomorrow will be a good day for so many more.”
Wellwishers have begun laying flowers outside his home in Bedford.
The flag above Downing Street was lowered to half-mast and Wembley Stadium’s arch was lit up in red and white as tributes poured in.
The Queen, who knighted Sir Tom last year, was sending a private message of condolence to his family, Buckingham Palace said.
“Her Majesty very much enjoyed meeting Captain Sir Tom and his family at Windsor last year,” a spokesperson said.
“Her thoughts, and those of the Royal Family, are with them, recognising the inspiration he provided for the whole nation and others across the world.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Captain Tom was a “hero in the truest sense of the word”.
“In the dark days of the Second World War he fought for freedom and in the face of this country’s deepest post-war crisis he united us all, he cheered us all up, and he embodied the triumph of the human spirit,” Johnson said in a statement.
“It is astonishing that at the age of 100 he raised more than £32 million for the NHS, and so gave countless others their own chance to thank the extraordinary men and women who have protected us through the pandemic.
“He became not just a national inspiration but a beacon of hope for the world. Our thoughts are with his daughter Hannah and all his family.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said Britain had “lost a hero”.
“This is incredibly sad news. Captain Tom Moore put others first at a time of national crisis and was a beacon of hope for millions,” Starmer said.
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Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.