Welcome, historians, to the last installment of This Week in History issues for the year. Hold back your tears, grab your cups of tea and let’s dive into the life of an extraordinary man. That’s right, this week will be a special feature — which I plan to make an end-of-year tradition — so let’s jump into this special article!
How does time feel? Is it a burden, like a weight on our shoulders? Or a breeze that carries us from memory to memory? Chronoception is the psychological concept of feeling time in our own minds; we can quite literally feel the past. So, another school year comes to an end — the last for many — how can we preserve our feelings long into the future? This week I’d like to explore the life of a legendary figure from recent history.
One would imagine that older, usually wiser and more experienced individuals would be treated with dignity, but sadly that is not the case in most countries. It seems if the world wants to stay ‘forever young,’ the race of life needs to be won by the youth, not the ailing and obsolete elderly.
Thomas Moore was such a youth. Born in Great Britain on April 30, 1920, Moore fought hard for his country in World War II, serving through the brutal campaigns in Burma and Southeast Asia. Notably he partook in the Battle for Ramree Island — a battle so gruesome I won’t even describe it here. After risking his life for his country and receiving countless medals, now Captain Tom Moore became a skilled armor corps officer and went on to train cadets after the war’s end.
Like many other young men from his generation, Moore fought in a war that arose out of the blue; it consumed lives for a cause too grand to comprehend for most. What was it that motivated him? It clearly wasn’t fame. Moore went on to work for a construction company and perhaps reached his highest public status as a managing director for a concrete company — doesn’t sound like the makings of a national hero per say, does it?
In the later years of his life, Moore should have lived the quiet life of a veteran. Maybe he’d settle down and live out his years in relative peace — but that was not going to be the case. COVID-19 struck in 2020 and it hit Britain incredibly hard. The pandemic put a tremendous strain on his nation and despite the risks, Moore harnessed the same energy he had when fighting in World War II and was determined to do something good for his country.
As young as ever, the 99-year-old Moore pledged to fight for his country not with weapons, but with love and courage. Beginning in mid-2020, his first goal was to raise 1,000 pounds and complete 100 laps around his garden. This would be an impressive feat for anyone, but Moore planned to do it by the end of April, his 100th birthday. This would truly be a substantial challenge.
Moore had modest hopes and dreams. He simply wanted to do what he could for the struggling National Health Service (NHS) of the UK and to help anyway he could. The results came in slow at first as he raised 1,000 pounds by October, but he continued on his walking journey, committing himself to a challenge and continuing to inspire others to do the same. To Moore, doing anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, could help others in need.
When his 100th birthday finally came around, Moore’s simple lifestyle and activism raised 30 million pounds for charity and the health service system. What can we learn from him? How can we orient our daily life to help others? With the semester drawing to a close, perhaps Moore’s own enthusiasm for life and passion for the support of his community can teach us something.
Moore, affectionately called “Captain Tom,” raised well over 30 million pounds, released a number one single with singer Michael Ball and was even knighted in a ceremony with Queen Elizabeth II. Captain Tom would die a year later due to complications from pneumonia, but his legacy and service to his country despite his age shows the importance of courage and strength in times of need.
History is not always about events centuries in the past or long-concluded wars which have a distant effect on the modern day. History is around us right now, even in the present. Captain Tom is now in the history books, but if you can, take a bit of his legacy with you. During the summer ahead perhaps work for the betterment of others in equal measure to the time you spend enjoying yourself.
That concludes This Week in History for the year! I wish you all a happy summer, especially the graduating Kaitlyn Tran who has done a marvelous job illustrating the column since I took the reins in the fall — she has brought so much life and color to the articles over the last year! See you next year!