Two years after his death, the army veteran and patron saint of the NHS, Captain Tom, is in the headlines again. Hannah Ingram-Moore, his daughter, has come under fire for allegedly using the Captain Tom Foundation’s name to build a spa and swimming pool complex at her house.
The story of Captain Tom captured the jumbled imagination of the British public during the pandemic. In April 2020 at the height of the coronavirus fright and lockdown, Captain Tom decided to walk 100 laps of his garden to raise £1,000 for the NHS in honour of his 100th birthday. In under a month, he raised £39 million.
In a time of depressing, repetitive news cycles, Captain Tom was instantly catapulted to the status of national treasure. Hannah Ingram-Moore ensured her father’s campaign achieved far more than the Captain initially set out to do: a number one single, an autobiography, a film adaptation of his life, a promotion to honorary colonel as well as a knighthood by the Queen and an estimated 400 interviews.
Was Hannah Bedfordshire’s answer to Kris Jenner, the savvy matriarch and manager of the Kardashian empire? Or had we all just gone a bit mad – and the national fixation on Captain Tom showed a country that was losing the plot?
Captain Tom mania was conspicuously, almost deliberately mad, in the way that a lot of viral phenomena are. You could even buy a mini-skirt with his face on it. With her background in sales distribution, Hannah fed the beast. Her father got on Piers Morgan’s ‘Life Stories’ and the cover of GQ.
But after the pandemic madness receded, the Captain Tom story started to feel less good.