Tom Teixeira knew his grandad had become famous when his phone started being permanently engaged. Tom Jnr would ring Captain Sir Tom Moore — whose death this week has prompted a national outpouring of grief and calls for a memorial in his honour — and find he couldn’t get through.
‘A couple of times I tried to ring and he was busy being interviewed,’ smiles Tom. ‘He rang on my 22nd birthday, May 31, and said: “Happy Birthday Thomas but we’ll have to be quick because I’m going on Countryfile.” I said: “All right grandad.” I thought it was hilarious. Which other 100-year-old would be dashing off to film a TV show?’
It is easy to forget, as we share in a collective sense of loss at the passing of the inimitable old soldier who came to signify all that is honourable, altruistic and indefatigable about the British spirit, that he was just grandad to Tom, his brother Max, 20 and their cousins Benjie, 16 and Georgia, 14. As Tom puts it: ‘He wasn’t just a war hero and a fund- raising machine. To us he was a family man.’
As this paper calls for a lasting memorial in his honour, Tom — speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail — says he believes his grandad would be tickled by such a gesture. ‘I think he’d laugh and say: “All of this for me?” He was so genuinely happy about everything done in his name. I don’t think he’d be expecting it — but he’d be delighted.’
Tom Teixeira (left) knew his grandad had become famous when his phone started being permanently engaged. Tom Jnr would ring Captain Sir Tom Moore (pictured) — whose death this week has prompted a national outpouring of grief and calls for a memorial in his honour — and find he couldn’t get through
Captain Sir Tom had two daughters Lucy — Tom and Max’s mum — and Hannah, by his adored second wife Pamela whom he married, aged 50 when she was 35. He outlived her by 14 years and was in his late 80s when he moved to live with Hannah, her husband Colin and their children Benjie and Georgia in the village of Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire.
Diagnosed with pneumonia last month and unable to have a Covid jab because of this, he was taken to Bedford Hospital with breathing difficulties where he died on Tuesday.
Knowing he might not pull through, and that the pandemic would prevent them from leaving their home in Bristol to visit their grandad, Tom and Max recorded their own farewells, which their Auntie Hannah played to him the day before he died. ‘We sent video messages,’ says Tom. ‘We said: “We’re here for you grandad and we’re very proud of you. Keep fighting. You’re a trouper.” Auntie Hannah played them to him the day before he died. He smiled.
‘Then Mum phoned me and my brother to say grandad had passed away peacefully. I knew how upset she was — and we can’t go and see her because of the pandemic — but she put on a brave face. There were no sad memories; all of them were good ones and that’s all anyone can hope for,’ Tom Jnr says.
‘I don’t think grandad would want a grand funeral. He’d like a small, intimate service with just the family. “March in, march out” he’d say. Pay your respects, then move on, get on with your lives.
Captain Sir Tom had two daughters Lucy — Tom and Max’s mum — and Hannah, by his adored second wife Pamela whom he married, aged 50 when she was 35. He outlived her by 14 years and was in his late 80s when he moved to live with Hannah, her husband Colin and their children Benjie and Georgia in the village of Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire
He had all the good qualities you’d want in a person really,’ said Tom Jnr. ‘Motivated. Genuinely selfless. Witty. I know he believed he’d be reunited with grandma — he knew he was meeting her in heaven. That was a fact. So he wasn’t afraid of death. His favourite saying was: “We can get through this and tomorrow will be a better day,” and it would be a good day for him to be with grandma again.’
The flood of kind messages has buoyed the family, says Tom. ‘Overwhelming’ is the word he uses and says they’re touched that folk came out in droves to applaud his grandad on Wednesday.
Captain Sir Tom’s epic walk earned him a place in history. As we all know, he walked laps round his garden during the spring lockdown, raising almost £39 million for NHS charities.
The endeavour began modestly enough. He hoped to raise just £1,000 to thank the health service staff who had cared for him after he had what he called a ‘silly fall’ in his kitchen, puncturing a lung and fracturing his hip.
It would, he thought, also be a nice way to express his gratitude to the NHS for their care of his late wife who, in her final years, had dementia. What’s more he’d be marking his 100th birthday with a challenge.
Captain Sir Tom’s epic walk earned him a place in history. As we all know, he walked laps round his garden during the spring lockdown, raising almost £39 million for NHS charities. Pictured: Tom Teixeira and Captain Tom Moore on a bike ride
But the war veteran not only walked into the record books but also became a national inspiration, a symbol of hope in the dark days of the pandemic. He recorded a No1 single, a duet with Michael Ball of You’ll Never Walk Alone, making him the oldest person ever to top the charts. The Army made him an honorary colonel and the Queen knighted him at Windsor Castle.
‘His greatest day was definitely when he met the Queen,’ says Tom, who was named after his dad — another Thomas. Her Majesty knighted Yorkshireman Sir Tom on July 17 last year. ‘It meant so much. They’re from the same era. He was a patriot. It was the ultimate honour for him.’
And for his last adventure Cptn Tom flew to Barbados, courtesy of British Airways — a treat he enjoyed with Hannah, Colin and their children — in December before the latest lockdown.
News of the trip attracted criticism, with some suggesting it was the reason he fell ill, even though he tested negative on his return.
But Tom says his grandad had the time of his life. ‘He really wanted to go, it was on his bucket list,’ he says. ‘And if you had the chance to do it at 100, why wouldn’t you?
‘That’s what he believed about life. You should take every chance offered to you. Life for grandad was all about making memories — and he had so many brilliant ones to cherish.’
As an infantryman conscripted into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in 1940, aged 20, Sir Tom earned an officer’s commission and fought in one of the most brutal parts of World War II, the Burma Campaign.
Tom was head of motorcycle training, teaching despatch riders how to cross rough terrain at speed. The job was perilous and cyanide tablets were issued: suicide was preferable to capture and being tortured by the enemy.
In July 1944 he was promoted to captain. And the bravery and tenacity that got him through the war stayed with him. While he was a loving and attentive grandad, he expected his grandsons — and daughters — to be tough and resourceful too.
Tom works as a transport coordinator and, like his brother, graduated from the University of the West of England. The brothers live a few streets apart in Bristol. His father, also called Tom Teixeira, a partner in an international management consulting firm and mum Lucy, a homeopath and well-being adviser, live in Reading, Berkshire.
But the war veteran not only walked into the record books but also became a national inspiration, a symbol of hope in the dark days of the pandemic
Tom Snr was in his late 70s when his eldest grandson was born. Tom Jnr’s earliest recollections are of blissful holidays spent at his grandad’s house — stucco-fronted, with a huge back garden — in Gravesend, Kent.
‘We went on long bike rides along a canal by a disused train track,’ he says. ‘We’d get up at the crack of dawn, just him and me, and I’d ride my little bike with its stabilisers.
‘He’d be on his old-fashioned bike and he’d be ahead of me. He didn’t slow down on the hills, he’d expect me to keep up. He’d say: “Come on, Thomas.” I loved it.
‘I think I was four or five and it was always just the two of us because Max was too young to come with us.
‘Grandad’s attitude rubbed off on us. He was an active, outdoors person and so are we.
‘If Max and I fell and grazed our legs he’d put a plaster on and then we’d be back outside again. Mum used to tell a story about how she knocked her two front teeth out as a little girl at a swimming pool and grandad said: “Up you get now” and you’d just carry on.’ He laughs.
He recalls, too, the tender side of his grandad, as he visited his beloved wife Pamela every day in the final years of her life. She was already ailing and in a nursing home suffering from dementia when Tom Jnr was a little boy.
‘Grandad was devoted to her,’ he says. ‘He cared for her as long as he could then went to see her every single day in the nursing home. He was so loyal. He would go there, rain or shine, and just sit holding her hand.’
Max, meanwhile, was given his first set of golf clubs as an adolescent by his grandad, and this instilled an enduring love of the game.
In fact Max, who studied golf at the elite academy at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire, hopes to be a golf professional. ‘He’s a great player and it’s all because grandad was such a fan of golf and encouraged him,’ says Tom.
It seems incredible that we, as a nation, knew him for just 12 months and in that short time discovered such a depth of affection and respect for him. His family, of course, knew him all their lives — and felt privileged to have shared him with us. And for that, we are forever grateful
He followed other parts of their lives with great enthusiasm too: ‘Grandad always had an eye for the ladies. He flirted, but in a very gentlemanly way,’ smiles Tom. ‘He always wanted to know who we were dating. He’d say to me and Max: “Any girlfriends?’ and we’d say: “A few, grandad, a few.”’
It is a regret to Tom that his grandad did not meet his current girlfriend, Matilda Maybee, who works in IT. ‘We were going to see him for his birthday but we couldn’t because of Covid,’ he says.
‘But grandad knew about her. My mum told him: “Tom has a new girlfriend” and he asked me: “Is she pretty?” and I said: “Of course, grandad. Of course.” ’ It’s these, simple, family memories he cherishes. Christmas, spent en famille at his aunt and uncle’s house, and grandad’s superb Yorkshire puddings — ‘huge, dense and fluffy at the same time’.
It seems incredible that we, as a nation, knew him for just 12 months and in that short time discovered such a depth of affection and respect for him.
His family, of course, knew him all their lives — and felt privileged to have shared him with us. And for that, we are forever grateful.