Captain Tom: The hero of Great Britain

Captain Sir Tom Moore, a true British hero, sadly passed away with Covid-19 on the 2nd of February 2021 at 100 years old. For those who need a refresher on Captain Tom’s achievements, in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, Captain Tom decided to do 100 laps of his garden in the lead up to his 100th birthday, to raise money for the NHS. This charitable mission from the Second World War veteran had a simple goal of raising £1,000, instead £33 million was raised. 

This achievement was assisted by heavy media coverage and the feeling of unity within the UK. To top it all off Captain Tom was transformed overnight into a British icon, being promoted to Captain, receiving a Knighthood from the Queen, releasing a bestselling autobiography, a No. 1 UK single, a gin, as well as appearing on numerous TV shows including high-profile interview show Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.    

So, the real question is, how should we as a nation commemorate him? 

Firstly, although a nice gesture, clapping is not enough. However, a return to weekly clapping for healthcare workers would be nice to show continued support, especially now during the vaccine rollout, which has so far been very successful with over 14 million receiving their first dose in the UK. But in the case of Captain Tom, the most obvious and perhaps most frequently proposed suggestion has been to have a statue of him erected, in honour of his achievements in some of the UK’s darkest hours of the pandemic and second world war. 

However, the whole situation does raise some other valid questions. Should the NHS be relying on donations during a national crisis? Is it hypocritical of the government to praise Captain Tom while refusing the funding the NHS needs? Of course, these questions do not take away from the incredible achievements of Captain Tom. 

When it comes to donations, 2020 and by consequence 2021 as well, have been unprecedented years whereby all aspects of the economy have been rattled. The first misconception is the idea that the government has not increased funding to the NHS when it indeed has. The NHS’s core funding in 2020 was £149.8 billion and received an additional £51.9 billion in Covid-19 funding. 

Was it enough? Well, no is the short answer, therefore making peoples donations needed. But in many ways, with furlough and countless other government expenditures occurring due to Covid-19, the benefit of the doubt can be given especially as £51.9 billion is no small increase to NHS funding when compared to the £33 million donated. That is not to say that the donations were not helpful but in the bigger picture only make up a fraction of the NHS funding in 2020 and 2021. 

This, in many ways, answers the next question. It is not hypocritical to give praise to Captain Tom who took it upon himself to raise money at the start of the pandemic of his own accord. What Captain Tom did was not particularly influenced by the government’s actions as he most likely would have raised money regardless of if the NHS has received more or less government funding. Additionally, if anything it would have been wrong for the government not to praise Captain Tom’s valiant efforts. 

Ultimately, Captain Tom was an unlikely hero to emerge in 2020, but he was the one the UK sorely needed. For this, the least he deserves is something that will last the test of time such as a statue. Captain Tom should never be forgotten for his lifelong service.

Cameron Thomas

Image source: Getty Images