A plaque commemorating Captain Sir Tom Moore and other victims of coronavirus has been destroyed by vandals and flowers ripped apart in an ‘thoughtless’ and ‘disgusting’ attack.
A wreath and other flowers next to a plaque for the 703 residents of Stoke-on-Trent who have died from Covid-19 were ripped apart and left scattered on the floor, less than a month after the memorial was unveiled.
Residents in the Staffordshire city have condemned the vandalism which was discovered at Fenton Park yesterday afternoon, along with damage to another plaque which appeared to have had the wording on it ripped off.
Both plaques had inscriptions reading: ‘In memory of the People of Stoke-on-Trent, Front Line Workers & Volunteers who died during the 2020-21 Covid-19 pandemic.’ They also include a quote from Sir Tom, saying: ‘The sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away.’
Sir Tom, who fought in Burma during the Second World War, captured the hearts of the nation during the first lockdown by raising more than £32million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday on April 30 last year. But in January, he died after contracting Covid-19 while being treated for pneumonia.
Ross Irving, the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, said today: ‘This vandalism is deeply saddening, we’re hugely disappointed that anyone would wish to damage commemorations to those who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
Flowers laid as part of a wreath to remember the 703 residents of Stoke-on-Trent who have died from coronavirus have been ripped out – less than a month after the unveiling of the memorial, which features a quote from Captain Sir Tom Moore
Another plaque was also vandalised at Fenton Park (left), where the garden pays tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore (right). It read: ‘In memory of the People of Stoke-on-Trent, Front Line Workers & Volunteers who died during the 2020-21 Covid-19 pandemic.’ It also includes a quote from Sir Tom, saying: ‘The sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away’
Pictured before: The wreath placed at the memorial in Stoke to pay tribute to the 703 residents who died from coronavirus
‘The past 12 months have been incredibly difficult for so many people in our city and this garden was designated just a few weeks ago on the year anniversary of the first lockdown on March 23, as a quiet place for reflection.
‘We know that the garden will be of huge benefit to lots of residents in the city, for people to come in their own time to visit. We know that the vast majority of people in the city will share our condemnation of this incident and we ask anyone with information as to who did it to contact Staffordshire Police on 101.’
Local resident Emma Owen, 40, from Fenton, said: ‘It’s disgusting and disrespectful when people have lost people to coronavirus. I hope they find out who is responsible.
‘We know a few people who have died through Covid-19 and it’s not nice. We should be grateful that the council chose to put a memorial in Fenton Park as it’s good to have it in Fenton.’
Karen Smith, 60, added: ‘We were here when they put the memorial up and I’ve seen quite a few people stop to have a look and talk about it. It’s made us all think and after the last year it was nice to have something like that in the park.
‘Maybe there needs to be some CCTV installed, but that’s a cost to the council. Some people just don’t have any respect for anything. It’s awful and makes you feel like why bother having anything nice.’
Lord Mayor Irving unveiled the memorial last month to mark 12 months since the start of the first lockdown.
The park also includes a fruit tree and a bench dedicated to healthcare workers and volunteers who died working in the fight against the virus.
Annah Williams, 34, said: ‘The plaque with Captain Tom on being destroyed is horrible, I can’t believe it, it’s awful. This was a nice place for people to come. We come here every day and always see people having a look around.’
Another memorial plaque, in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on the day of Captain Sir Tom Moore’s funeral, on February 27, 2021
Queen Elizabeth II talking Captain Sir Tom Moore and his family after awarding his knighthood at Windsor Castle last July
Captain Sir Tom Moore, with (left to right) grandson Benji, daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and granddaughter Georgia, at his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, after he achieved his goal of 100 laps of his garden, on April 6, 2021
And Fenton resident Eddie Jankowski, 71, added: ‘People have no respect anymore. This is a lovely bench to remember people after the year we have had and it’s a shame that somebody has done this to it.’
How Captain Sir Tom’s heroic actions boosted Britain amid lockdown
Captain Sir Tom Moore became a household name after his fundraising efforts at the height of lockdown. Here is a timeline of the Second World War veteran’s life since he raised millions for the NHS:
- April 6, 2020: Captain Tom, aged 99, sets out to walk 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday. His target is to raise £1,000 for the NHS.
- April 8: He is interviewed on his local TV news programme after his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore sends them a press release.
- April 14: Donations to the veteran’s JustGiving page break the £1 million mark after national media reports on his efforts.
- April 15: Health Secretary Matt Hancock hails Captain Tom as an ‘inspiration to us all’ as donations top £10 million.
- April 16: Captain Tom completes his 100th lap of his garden and vows to keep walking.
- April 17: The Duke of Cambridge describes the veteran as an ‘absolute legend’. Donations exceed £20 million.
- April 21: Captain Tom opens a new Nightingale hospital in his native Yorkshire in a virtual appearance.
- April 24: He becomes the oldest artist to reach number one in the UK singles charts with his rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, recorded with singer Michael Ball.
- April 27: Royal Mail announces a special postmark to celebrate Captain Tom’s upcoming birthday. April 29: Great Western Railway (GWR) names a train after Captain Tom.
- April 30: A Spitfire flypast marks the veteran’s 100th birthday. He receives thousands of cards including one from the Queen. His fundraising page closes at midnight having totalled almost £33 million.
- May 5: Captain Tom is awarded a gold Blue Peter badge.
- May 12: He is awarded the Freedom of the City of London in a virtual ceremony.
- July 17: Captain Tom is knighted by the Queen in her first official engagement in person since lockdown lifted, becoming Captain Sir Tom Moore.
- July 31: He is awarded the freedom of his home town, Keighley in Yorkshire.
- August 3: He is made honorary colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
- August 14: His portrait is unveiled at the National Army Museum in London. Artist Alexander Chamberlin says he is ‘hugely proud’ to have painted it.
- September 17: Sir Tom launches his autobiography, called Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day. Sales help to support his charity the Captain Tom Foundation, which aims to spread hope.
- September 23: A film company announces it is to give Sir Tom the big screen treatment, following a fierce bidding war.
- November 5: He launches a campaign called Walk With Tom, aiming to ease loneliness as England enters a second lockdown.
- November 16: He becomes GQ’s oldest cover star as the magazine names him its Inspiration Of The Year at the annual Men Of The Year awards.
- December 11: After consulting doctors, Sir Tom and his family fly to Barbados after being treated to a holiday by British Airways.
- December 25: On Christmas Day Sir Tom tells BBC Breakfast things ‘will get better’ as families spend the holiday alone due to restrictions.
- January 1, 2021: His figure is formed in lights as part of New Year’s Eve celebrations in London to mark the end of 2020.
- January 6: Sir Tom returns to Britain.
- January 12: The veteran is admitted to Bedford Hospital and is diagnosed with pneumonia. Between December 9 and January 12 he is regularly tested for Covid-19 and tests negative each time.
- January 22: Sir Tom is discharged to his family home so he can feel ‘comfortable’ but tests positive for coronavirus on the same day.
- January 31: He is taken back to Bedford Hospital by ambulance for additional treatment for his breathing, after previously receiving care at home from his family and medical professionals.
- February 1: His condition deteriorates and daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and grandchildren Benjie and Georgia visit his bedside to say goodbye while his other daughter Lucy Teixeira speaks to him by video call.
- February 2: Sir Tom dies aged 100 in Bedford Hospital as his daughters pay tribute to their ‘incredible father’.
Sir Tom earned national recognition during the lockdown after completing 100 laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS Charities Together. Initially hoping to raise £1,000, he brought in £32million.
In recognition of the sizeable contribution the Second World War veteran made during the pandemic, the Queen knighted him last July 17. But in January, he died after contracting Covid-19 while being treated for pneumonia.
Yesterday, his family encouraged people to celebrate his spirit of generosity by taking on their own ‘Captain Tom 100’ charity challenge on what would have been the weekend of his 101st birthday.
Sir Tom raised more than £32million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday on April 30 last year. He died at Bedford Hospital on February 2 after testing positive for Covid-19.
His daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore is urging people to create their own challenge themed around the number 100 to raise money for the Captain Tom Foundation or a charity of their choice.
They are encouraged to take on their challenge between Friday April 30 and the Bank Holiday Monday on May 3.
Details of the Captain Tom 100 were revealed on April 6 – a year to the day since Sir Tom started walking laps of his garden in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire.
Ms Ingram-Moore said her family are ‘still a grieving family’ but are ‘propelled forward by hope’.
‘I really hope people see this for what it is, which is an absolute chance to bring joy, put money back into charities and support the Captain Tom Foundation, which after all is the legacy of hope that he’s left us behind,’ she said.
She said the family will take part by continuing Sir Tom’s walk ‘right where he left it because we feel it’s the only right thing to do’.
‘We’ve talked about is that 100 a day, is that 25 each, we’re still working out the finer details,’ she said.
She went on: ‘We want people to go crazy and create their own 100 – a challenge around the number 100. ‘Because he was 100 and he was so proud to be 100.
‘We thought of whether it should be 101 but it’s definitely 100 because that year he lived being 100 was the best year of his life, almost certainly.’
Sir Tom knew before he died that a 101st birthday celebration was being planned for him and that this was to be an inclusive event, Ms Ingram-Moore said.
‘I really regret that he’s not here to share it as I think he would just love it,’ she said.
She said he would have thought that the Captain Tom 100 was ‘brilliant’, adding: ‘He was a Yorkshireman remember at the end of the day, not trending towards excitement most of the time. ‘But he would have felt so proud … he would have just felt proud to the core.’
Last week, Sir Tom’s ghost writer said he started each day with a bowl of porridge and his book of life lessons was at one point going to be called Eat Your Porridge.
Journalist and biographer Wendy Holden wrote to the Second World War veteran after he hit the headlines last year by walking 100 laps of his garden.
She said her father, who also fought in Burma, would have been the same age as Sir Tom and they ‘clicked immediately’.
Ms Holden was the ghost writer for his autobiography Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day, published last year, and she also worked on his book of advice, called Captain Tom’s Life Lessons.
Before Sir Tom’s death on February 2, the book was due for release on what would have been his 101st birthday on April 30.
This was brought forward to April 2, and Ms Holden said that he had been ‘very much looking forward to sharing his lessons and sharing his thoughts with the general public’.
‘He realised that people wanted to hear from him, they wanted to know what he had learned in his 100 years of life,’ she said.
‘He had a great deal of wisdom and he wanted to impart that wisdom.
‘Towards the end of last year, right up until when I last saw him physically in December, we went through his life lessons together and they were extraordinary.
‘At one point the book was going to be called Eat Your Porridge, because it’s the first life lesson, it’s about starting your day as you mean to go on and having structure and routine to your day.
‘He ate porridge every day of his life even out in Burma and India and he swore by it.
‘He said if you had something wholesome and hearty in your stomach then you could carry on with the day.
‘There were all these other lovely ideas and guidance that he had for people, lessons that he had about being comfortable in your own skin and walking in other people’s shoes and always having hope and a positive attitude, all of which he absolutely embodied in every aspect of his life.’