Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral marked 50 years on
BBC News, 30 January 2015
The boat that carried Sir Winston Churchill’s coffin along the Thames in 1965 has made the same journey to mark the 50th anniversary of his funeral.
Members of the Churchill family were aboard the Havengore, which travelled to Westminster in central London.
Earlier, Prime Minister David Cameron laid a wreath in memory of Churchill, who, as prime minister, led Britain to victory in World War Two.
An evening service was held at Westminster Abbey.
“If there is one aspect of this man I admire more than any other – it is Churchill the patriot,” he said.
Mr Cameron said the UK needed to draw on the “courage and resolve” of Churchill to battle “every affront to freedom in this century”.
A procession from the service at Parliament’s St Mary’s Undercroft chapel ended under what has become known as Churchill Arch.
It was rebuilt at his suggestion following a direct hit from a German bomb in May 1941.
Tower Bridge was raised as the Havengore retraced its 1965 journey from the Tower of London to Westminster.
The boat then stopped near the Palace of Westminster for a service to be held and for wreath laying in the river.
At the Westminster Abbey service, flowers were laid at the green marble stone memorial to Churchill.
Sir Nicholas Soames said the Westminster events were a “fitting tribute” to his grandfather and a “strong reminder of all he did for his country”.
Emma Soames, Churchill’s granddaughter, added: “To me growing up he was a grandfather, but I came to realise at his death that he was so much more than that.
“The family are absolutely delighted that his life is being celebrated and his legacy expanded.”
Randolph Churchill said it was a “proud day” and his great-grandfather would have been “surprised but thrilled” at the commemorations.
Along with Celia Sandys, Churchill’s granddaughter, he laid a wreath at his statue in Parliament Square.
Thousands of people lined the streets of London for Churchill’s funeral procession in 1965.
Journalist Martin Bell, who worked for the BBC as a junior reporter at the funeral, recalled speaking to mourners.
He said: “What I remember is most of all… the sheer size of them, 10-12 deep all along the way.
“Very quiet, very dignified, almost devotional. It would be hard to imagine anybody now, however eminent, drawing that kind of crowd to his funeral.
“It was unprecedented… the entire nation was watching.”
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
- 1874 – Born in Blenheim Palace on 30 November
- 1900 – Elected to Parliament for the first time
- 1908 – Marries Clementine Hozier in Westminster
- 1915 – Forced to resign from the Cabinet in disgrace after disastrous World War One Gallipoli campaign
- 1940 – Appointed prime minister with Britain again at war with Germany in World War Two
- 1945 – Loses the General Election to Clement Attlee’s Labour Party despite leading the nation to victory in the war
- 1951 – Returns to Downing Street again as prime minister after securing a narrow majority
- 1955 – Retires as prime minister due to ill health
- 1965 – Dies aged 90
Churchill began his career in the Army and he also worked as a journalist during the Boer War in South Africa, where he was captured and made a prisoner-of-war but managed to escape.
He served as First Lord of the Admiralty and held various senior government roles before taking over from Neville Chamberlain as prime minister in May 1940, and leading the country to eventual victory over Nazi Germany.
He resigned in 1955, but remained an MP until shortly before his death. He also wrote numerous books, and in 1953 won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Churchill’s grave is in Bladon churchyard, near his birthplace of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.