It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we lost the inspirational Captain Sir Tom Moore from our lives. The 100-year-old became a beacon of hope during the darkest times of the pandemic, and on the first anniversary of his death this week, his family say it will be a day of mixed emotions.
“There will definitely be sorrow, but there is also joy,” says his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore.
“We try not to allow ourselves to be lost in our grief because there’s so much goodness that has come out of it, too.”
Hannah, her husband Colin and their children Benjie, 18, and Georgia, 13, were also thrust into the spotlight when the army veteran raised almost £40 million for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of the garden at their Bedfordshire home. And, as they exclusively invite us into their now-famous residence, the family reflect on his passing and the weight of responsibility they feel to keep his legacy alive.
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Captain Tom’s fundraising effort came about when Colin challenged him to walk 100 laps of their garden and said he would give him £1 a lap as his 100th birthday party had to be cancelled due to lockdown. Benjie and Georgia created an iMovie and Hannah set up a JustGiving page.
What it turned into was a story of hope and inspiration that captured the nation and the rest of the world’s hearts, with 163 countries donating.
“We set up a JustGiving page and we didn’t think much about it. Within a day we’d picked up some radio and TV interviews and we hit £2,000,” says Hannah. “We thought that was nice and maybe we could increase the target to £5,000 by the end of the month, but within a week we were at £500,000 and by two weeks we were at £20 million. By the end of the three and a half weeks the total was at £38.9 million. It was extraordinary!”
And the family have carried on his incredible legacy by setting up The Captain Tom Foundation, which aims to connect the generations and bring together communities. There are also plans for an annual Captain Tom Day, which will celebrate his life and fundraise for the foundation.
Here, Hannah tells OK! about the ambitions of the Foundation, how meeting the Queen was a dream come true for her father, and coping with their loss…
It’s the first anniversary of your father’s passing this week, Hannah. Will be a day of sadness or pride?
I have kept it blank in my diary. Lots of people have asked me to do things, but unless it’s something I really want
to do, I’ll say no, because I think we need time as a family to reflect. Our first Christmas without him was difficult, but we knew we needed to be alone for it and we left a seat for him at the table. We still have his things in the cupboards. Our grief won’t ever go away, you just learn to live with it, and we shared our grief with the world. There will definitely be sorrow, but there is also joy. We try not to allow ourselves to be lost in our grief because there’s so much goodness that has come out of it, too.
What has this time been like for your children?
They are so proud to be his grandchildren and were very protective of him. They only knew living with him as he came to live with us when Benjie was four and Georgia had just been born, so he was central to their upbringing. Their loss is huge and unique, but they feel his legacy lives within them and they feel a responsibility to ensure that legacy is carried on. They are changed because of it. People stop Georgia and give her money and say, “Put this into your grandfather’s foundation,” and Benjie has been thrust into global business meetings with the foundation. He feels such pride and he loves it.
Tell us about The Captain Tom Foundation…
We officially launched in September 2020. My father became a beacon of hope around the world and created this massive global impact – we knew we had to save it for future generations, so we set up The Captain Tom Foundation. Our ambition is to celebrate and empower our ageing population and bring together the generations. This will lead to an annual Captain Tom Day every June.
What will the Captain Tom Day involve?
It will celebrate everything my father stood for – connecting people and bringing together communities – all with a big celebration of our ageing population. It will show how much older people can positively impact our society if we choose to listen. We want to make it similar to Children In Need and Comic Relief, where we have a fundraising period which we hope will culminate in a telethon where we can reach out to people. He left such an incredible, indelible mark on our family, so every decision we think, “How would he have felt?” I know he would have loved this and felt it was the right thing to do. We’ll also be announcing more about a feature film soon.
What can you tell us about the film?
It will start filming this year. We’ll be announcing actors soon. My father did say he wouldn’t mind Anthony Hopkins or Michael Caine playing him! It’s really exciting – my father was thrilled about it and involved in the script. When the world was in our back garden I also decided we should film it for ourselves so we could capture what happened to us as a family, so there will be a documentary coming out as well.
Was meeting the Queen and being knighted by her a dream come true for him?
It was. Meeting the Queen was it for him. They were from the same generation and they were in the war together. He respected her like no other. He wasn’t nervous to meet her. In the car on the way there, he said, “I’m looking forward to talking to her.” At the time I sort of thought if he died the next day it would be alright because it was the thing of things for him. It was the biggest honour that could have been bestowed on him. She asked the four of us to go along too, and we all spoke to her, which was really unusual. It was amazing. I felt beyond proud.
What did the Queen say to you all?
My father said he’d never repeat what the Queen said to him, so I won’t say, but one thing he did say publicly was, “I hope she’s not too heavy handed with the sword as I might not get back up!” When he was being knighted she leaned in quietly and said, “I’ve done it quite a few times before and I’m quite gentle!” It was just fabulous and so funny. She said to me, “I want to thank you on behalf of the nation for everything you’ve done,” and then she asked Georgia if things had been difficult with school during lockdown. I don’t think Georgia got the memo that you only reply and you don’t instigate conversation with the Queen!
What did Georgia say?
Georgia said, “It has,” and then she went on to say, “It’s been really difficult because I haven’t seen any of my friends and it’s been quite lonely. We’ve been doing lots of interviews and talking to the world, but I haven’t been able to see any of my friends!” The Queen smiled and said, “Yes, it must have been difficult,” and then asked, “How old are you? What year are you in?” I stood there and thought, “Gosh!” She was just being a grandmother and being interested and she knew what to ask. I remember thinking, “What a woman!”
Did the royal family get in touch after he passed?
Yes. The Queen sent a message and we had letters from members of the royal family and from almost every MP pledging their support and sending their best wishes. We got cards from the whole world after his passing. We still get cards now. We feel like we’re the guardians of this incredible legacy and we want to do our best by it.
Of all the famous faces your father met, who was he most starstruck by?
I don’t know if he did get starstruck! But he did love when we hid Michael Ball in the garden and he surprised him! He also absolutely loved David Beckham and he really enjoyed the company of Piers Morgan. On Piers Morgan’s Life Stories he said, “The best thing I ever did was move in with them,” and it made us all cry. He moved in with us in 2007 after my mother passed away, and he said a few weeks later, “I’d become invisible to the world but you’ve given me my visibility back.”
Do the celebrities who supported him keep in touch?
I talk to them all. There isn’t one of them who hasn’t stayed in touch and we’re in discussions about how they could get involved with Captain Tom Day. They’ve become part of our lives! Dame Judi Dench is a hero of mine and she ate 100 Maltesers for the Captain Tom 100 challenge after he passed – it was the best thing ever!
Did your father fully realise the weight of his mission and the positivity he brought to the nation?
At first, every time we were with the producer of whatever TV show we were going on, they would cry
and my father would ask me, “Why are they crying?” And I’d say it was because they’re scared, but they see you and you give them hope and inspire them. We were talking to people around the world and they were so scared of how they were going to cope with the pandemic. So after a while he knew and he said to me, “If just a couple of words from me can give someone hope then I will keep talking.”
The Captain Tom Foundation aims to celebrate and empower our wonderful ageing population. The Foundation will be launching its inaugural Captain Tom Day this summer, which is a unique celebration showcasing the power and social benefits of connecting the generations, just as Captain Tom did. It is currently raising funds for Captain Tom Day, so please get in touch at captaintom.org if you would like to be involved or follow on Twitter @captaintommoore
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