The great event of this week was the knighting of Captain Tom Moore. It was possibly the happiest sight since the lockdown began. As we watched the Queen lift her sword to make Captain Tom into Sir Tom, we saw more than two admirable people of a great age in the Windsor sunshine; we saw the thread of history.
The Queen is ninety-four; the gallant captain is a hundred. They are of that mighty generation whose resilience we cherish. If ever we at HorseBack have a bit of a wobble – a bad day, a worry about the world, a moment of uncertainty – we think of that generation and draw strength.
People of that age have survived things that we can hardly imagine. The Second World War has gone into the realm of myth, with its iconic folk memories of Dunkirk, and Blitz spirit, and Churchill talking of finest hours. But its reality was dark and terrifying; the cloud of destruction hovered over Europe, and the wider world. It’s easy to forget that the very survival of Britain seemed doubtful at times, let alone anything which might look like victory. The home front faced the perils of bombing, invasion scares, rationing, and the constant gnawing fear over the fate of loved ones fighting far, far away.
Even when the peace finally came, poor old Blighty was battered and bruised. The rebuilding of homes, families, normality was a long and painful process.
All that was what the generation of the Queen and Captain Tom knew. But the century was not done with them yet. They lived through the Cold War, as the iron curtain clanged shut and the vivid threat of the nuclear age infected everything. At home, there were race riots, economic collapses, and the brutal and seemingly intractable violence and terror of the Northern Irish Troubles.
The 1980s seemed to offer a glimmer of hope, as memories of the three day week and the power cuts and the rubbish piling up in the streets faded. But all that money swishing about created its own problems, and many of those financial bubbles burst with catastrophic effects. As the century ended, a new form of terrorism stalked onto centre stage, followed by political turmoil and uncertainty, and all the complications that came with galloping globalism.
It might seem, to men and women born before the Second World War, that it was just one damn thing after another. And then came the pandemic, and the lockdown, and the world turned upside down all over again. Yet look at what Sir Capt Tom Moore did. He did not shrink from the fight; he instantly rose to the challenge. He has become an emblem of that great British spirit of getting on with it. He did not retreat or complain; he found his cause and he embarked on his mission. He makes us want to be better, and he exemplifies our enduring HorseBack belief which is: concentrate not on what seems impossible, but focus on what is possible.
We write all this because the thought of that stoical, resilient, wonderfully good-humoured generation gives us perspective. In times of difficulty, like now, we find it useful to look back and remember everything they have been through, and what they have survived with such dauntless good grace. The storms of life will come, yet the little boats, as they did in 1940, can sail out over rough seas, and prevail. As we watched the Queen and Sir Tom together, we were reminded of the importance of the determination to keep on going, to find the silver lining in the heaviest cloud, to refuse to give up.
Arise, Sir Tom. You are a true inspiration.
PS. We never do this, but we have borrowed a photograph for the special occasion. It comes from the Royal Family Facebook page, and we hope that whoever the photographer is will forgive us. it’s such a glorious image, and we thought it was perfect to mark this rare moment.