The Queen and Boris Johnson have led tributes to Captain Sir Tom Moore, who has died aged 100 after testing positive for COVID-19.
The centenarian, who captured the hearts of the nation during the first lockdown, was being treated in Bedford Hospital for help with his breathing after he developed pneumonia in recent weeks.
Last spring, he raised more than £32m for the NHS after walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday – and his family hailed the last year of his life as “nothing short of remarkable”, adding: “He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of”.
Following the news of his death, Buckingham Palace said the Queen and the Royal Family’s thoughts are with his loved ones and she is sending a private message of condolence.
A palace spokesperson said Captain Sir Tom provided inspiration for the whole nation and others across the world.
Her Majesty knighted the Second World War veteran at Windsor Castle last July in recognition of his fundraising efforts.
The Union flags above 10 Downing Street are flying at half-mast and the prime minister has spoken to Sir Tom’s daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore to offer his condolences.
Boris Johnson said: “Captain Sir Tom Moore 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.
“He became not just a national inspiration but a beacon of hope for the world.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “I’m so sorry to hear that Captain Tom has passed away in hospital.
“He was a great British hero that showed the best of our country and I send my best wishes to his family at this time.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “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. Britain has lost a hero.”
The White House tweeted: “We join the United Kingdom and the world in honouring the memory of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who inspired millions through his life and his actions.”
The US embassy in London had earlier written on social media: “You inspired millions of people across the UK and US at one of the most difficult times we’ve ever faced. Your legacy will live on and continue to inspire.”
Singer Michael Ball, who recorded a charity single with Sir Tom that reached number one, wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace @captaintommoore. A wonderful life so well lived and a hero and fighter to the very end.
“So very very sad. Love and prayers for @Hannah_I_M and all the family.”
The NHS tweeted: “Thanks for everything Sir Tom”, while Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said Captain Sir Tom gave the country a “boost when we most needed it”.
She said: “On behalf of everyone in the NHS, I want to pay tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore who has been the model of all that has been good about our country’s response to COVID-19.”
‘He had an infectious energy and sometimes cheeky optimism’
By Rhiannon Mills, royal correspondent, who reported on his knighthood
On a boiling hot day in July last year, Captain Tom waited in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle.
Smartly dressed in his suit and medals and standing remarkably upright for a man of his age despite the sweltering heat.
The pride felt by him and his family was palpable. He had described it as the most special of days. And then the moment came.
The Queen stepping out on to the lawn and using her father’s sword to knight Captain Sir Tom Moore. It was an incredible privilege to witness that moment as part of a small group of journalists who’d been invited in.
Able to watch as two members of the wartime generation chatted away outside Windsor Castle, both symbols of hope in their own way during the pandemic.
What struck me that day was just how humble he was. Yes, the star of the show, a national treasure as many would describe him, but he didn’t want the focus to just be on him.
He kept thanking all those who’d donated money, thanking his family, he even thanked us for coming and interviewing him, asking if we needed to ask any more questions despite already being on his feet for over half an hour.
He had an infectious energy and sometimes cheeky optimism, and clearly appreciated the responsibility that came with his new profile, aware that what he did or said could just make a difference to someone and lift their spirits.
An aura of wartime resilience seemed to emanate from the army veteran, who in the most unexpected ways served his country until the very end. A remarkable life to celebrate, of a man who brought light into so many lives.
Football star David Beckham has hailed Captain Sir Tom as the “very best of British” and a “true hero”.
Beckham wrote on social media: “What he achieved for our NHS will never be forgotten”, as he shared a video of his encounter with Sir Tom last year.
The sportsman presented him with a framed football shirt after he became the first member of the Lionhearts squad of inspirational heroes.
The arch of London’s Wembley Stadium has been lit in red and white to honour the memory of Captain Sir Tom.
Fitness coach Joe Wicks described Captain Sir Tom as “an inspiration who helped millions of people feel hopeful and optimistic during a difficult time”.
“Rest in Peace Sir Captain Tom Moore,” he added.
TV presenters Ant and Dec tweeted: “Captain Sir Tom Moore. What a hero.
“You were a shining beacon of hope and an inspiration to us all when we needed it most. We thank you and salute you. Rest In Peace Sir.”