Sign up for our free Churchill newsletter:
Churchill Dead at 90

Print
The New York Times, January 25, 1965
Churchill is Dead at 90; The World Mourns Him; State Funeral Saturday
COMMONS TO MEET
It Will Authorize Rites in St. Paul's -- Burial to be in Country

By Anthony Lewis
Special to The New York Times


London, Jan. 24 -- Winston Churchill's struggle for life ended this morning, and the people he had cherished and inspired and led through darkness mourned him as they have no other in this age.

Sir Winston died just after 8 o'clock, in the 10th day of public anxiety over his condition after a stroke. He was in his 91st year.

Britons small and great village curate, Prime Minister and Queen paid him tribute through the day and this evening. Statesmen around the world joined in homage to the statesman they acknowledge as the greatest of the age.

Londoners, during the last struggle, had come to accept Sir Winston's death as inevitable. There was little of the shock and horror seen in the reaction to President Kennedy's death.

Many Difficult Moments

Nevertheless, even those who consider themselves unsentimental found that they had difficult moments as they were reminded of the great Churchillian days.

The radio followed the announcement of the death with Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. The opening theme symbolizing the knock of victory- three short notes and a long note evoked memories of Churchill's wartime gesture, two fingers held aloft, in a "V for Victory."

Parliament will meet tomorrow to authorize a state funeral, the first held for a commoner in this century. For the rest of the week public affairs will be slowed almost to a stop.

The body will lie in state Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Westminster Hall, the lofty medieval chamber adjoining Sir Winston's real home, the House of Commons.

On Saturday a state funeral service will be held at St. Paul's Cathedral. Burial will be in the country churchyard at Bladon village, near Blenheim Palace, the ancestral castle where Sir Winston was born. Queen Elizabeth will attend the state funeral.

Sir Winston had been failing for some years. His last public appearance was Nov. 30, his 90th birthday, when he waved to a crowd from the window of his town house. He seemed in good spirits but feeble.

The end was signaled this morning when Sir Winston's doctor and old friend, Lord Moran, arrived at the town house at 7:18. He gave the death announcement to the Press Association at 8:35, after informing Queen Elizabeth and the Prime Minister. [News of Sir Winston's death was published in the final edition of Sunday's New York Times.]

He Died 'Without Pain'

A spokesman said: "Sir Winston died in peace and without pain."

At the bedside were Lady Churchill and three living children- Randolph, Sarah and Mary.

At St. Paul's this morning the state bell, "Great Tom," tolled. It is usually rung only for the death of royalty, certain clergymen or the Lord Mayor of London.

Tonight the lights in Piccadilly Circus were out. The advertisers whose garish signs are for many a symbol of London decided to pay their respects with darkness tonight and again Saturday after the funeral.

Another change in London tradition was made in tribute to Sir Winston tonight. The Times of London broke its deeply established custom of carrying classified advertisements, not news, on the first page.

In Monday's edition, the first page is given over to pictures of Sir Winston and the start of an obituary. The classified ads were moved to Page 3 for the first time since World War I. The paper also printed a 16-page supplement on Churchill's career.

British politics, which just came to a point of fierce tension, will be frozen this week.

Conservatives, emboldened by a by-election gain, had expected to move to the attack in the House of Commons.

But all that is off for the moment. Parliament is expected to adjourn for the week or deal only with nonpartisan matters.

The Voice Heard Again

The radio today carried the Churchill voice -- recordings of speeches that aroused a people to deeds of valor in a grim time.

"We shall never surrender." It was such Churchillian words as these and the conviction with which he spoke them that many believe saved Britain and her allies from defeat and subjection to Hitler.

The weekly journal The Spectator said:

"We are a free people because a man called Winston Churchill lived."

It is as the great wartime Prime Minister that he will above all be recorded. But those who mourned him today were moved by more than that."

He was a great personality, not just a great statesman. He was human, with emotions and desires and faults, some on an Olympian scale.

He drank wine for breakfast when it pleased him to do so and champagne and brandy and whisky in quantities through the rest of the day. He smoked cigars continuously. He never exercised. And his health was amazing.

Loved a Good Fight

He lived on controversy. The adjectives often applied to him were pugnacious and combative. He was famous for ridicule and invective debate, for witticisms such as the one he applied to the Puritan figure, of Sir Stafford Cripps: "There, but for the grace of God, goes God."

"His obstinacy was exhausting," Harold Macmillan, a former Prime Minster, said on a television program tonight. But he went on to say that the other side of the coin was "undefeatable determination."

Mr. Macmillan touched on another aspect of Sir Winston's character- "his puckish sense of humor, his tremendous sense of fun, his quick alternation between grave and gay."

In 1906, Churchill invented a term to get around a ban in the House of Commons on the word "lie." He spoke of another member's "terminological inexactitude."

He was this age's nearest equivalent to a Renaissance man.

He was a soldier, escaped war prisoner, historian, novelist, orator, journalist and politician.

He spent 60 years in the House of Commons but found time to write more than two dozen books.

In the midst of war and grand strategy, as he himself recorded in his history of World War II, he took time to note the pleasures of the flesh in Marrakesh in Morocco, and the plumbing in Yalta. He had a passion for detail.

It was his zeal for life that Londoners are remembering above all.

"His power seemed to be turned on all the time," a wartime colleague, Gen. Sir Ian Jacob, has written.

Even his diction, was a triumph of will. He overcame a severe stammer and a lisp; the traces of those disabilities made his voice more compelling.

This weekend The Economist disclosed an episode revealing Sir Winston's attitude toward the prospect of defeat and death.

At the end of the war, before the election that he lost in 1945, The Times of London prepared an editorial suggesting that he campaign as a nonpartisan world leader and retire gracefully rather soon afterward. The editor first informed Churchill that he was going to make these two points.

"Mr. Editor," Churchill said to the first point, "I fight for my corner." And, to the second: "Mr. Editor, I leave when the pub closes."

Sir Winston's survivors cover four generations. His wife, Lady Churchill, and the three children, Randolph, Sarah and Mary, who is Mrs. Christopher Soames, are left in the two older generations.

There are 10 grandchildren: Randolph's children, Winston and Arabella; five Soames children, Nicholas, Jeremy, Emma, Charlotte and Rupert Christopher; and three children of the late Diana Churchill, who had been married to Duncan Sandys. They are Julian, Celia and Edwina, who is Mrs. Piers Dixon.

There are three great-children. Two are Mrs. Dixon's children, Mark and Hugo. The third, still unnamed, is a boy recently born to young Winston Churchill's wife.