Silence, applause and flowers for UK hero 'Captain Tom'

Callum PATON
·2-min read

People across Britain participated Wednesday in a nationwide clap to honour Captain Sir Tom Moore, the 100-year-old war veteran who died the previous day after becoming a global hero for his extraordinary fundraising efforts during the pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson took part in the applause standing outside 10 Downing Street, resurrecting the weekly "clap for carers" Britons took part in from their doorsteps at the outset of the pandemic.

"Tonight we honoured Captain Sir Tom Moore and all the health workers he recognised with his fundraising," he posted on Twitter, alongside a video of himself and fiance Carrie Symonds clapping.

Earlier, a minute's silence was held in parliament, with MPs in the House of Commons bowing their heads in tribute to the former soldier and a round of applause breaking out in recognition of his record-smashing achievements.

Moore raised nearly £33 million ($45 million, 37 million euros) for UK health service charities by completing 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday last April.

His efforts won hearts as Britons grappled with the first coronavirus lockdown last year, and spurred many other campaigns to raise cash for the state-run National Health Service (NHS).

Among the many accolades showered on him was a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at a special open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle.

The monarch, 94, has sent a private letter of condolence to his family, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday.

- Well-wishers -

Moore died in hospital in Bedford, southern England, on Tuesday after receiving treatment for pneumonia and testing positive for coronavirus.

In the Bedfordshire village of Marston Moretaine where Moore lived, his neighbours expressed their sadness, while well-wishers left a flood of floral tributes outside his home.

"The first lockdown was very difficult for everybody, but I think the village had a real lift, he gave us a real lift, encouraged people to chat to each other and gave us something to talk about," neighbour Lucy Handley, 45, told AFP.

Amanda Fulton, 47, said the outpouring of grief, particularly on social media was "phenomenal for one person".

"It's obviously very close to everyone's hearts, it's very touching for the nation at the moment," she added.

Tributes flooded in from across the world, including the White House and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, both calling him inspirational.

National monuments, including the London Eye and Wembley Stadium, were illuminated in honour at his passing, and Downing Street flew the Union Jack at half-mast.

The BT Tower, which dominates the skyline in central London displayed an electronic message "RIP Captain Sir Tom Moore".

At Piccadilly Circus, advertising boards lit up with an image of Moore and the words: "A nation salutes you."