On the day of the funeral, the coffin, carried by members of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars, approaches the lychgate, where the public aspect of the funeral came to an end and gave way to the private family interment.It takes a big event to shake Bladon from its stride. The sun climbs slowly to illuminate the village in the shallow valley, as it has for a thousand years. A red kite floats lazily over the Church tower. The River Glyme flows through Blenheim Park round past the yellow sandstone cottages. The children walk to school and enthusiastically play in the schoolyard, as they did when Lord Randolph was buried and as they did through the whole of Winston Churchill’s long life. The Bladon Home Guard has come and gone: pubs, shops and dukes of Marlborough too. Yet, Bladon remains much the same: a small, quiet country village, the last resting place of a very great man.
Churchill’s burial in 1965 was Bladon’s day of days. Best estimates suggest that 900 policemen were on guard the day of the funeral—probably more than the village population then. Upwards of 125,000 people visited in the days and weeks after the funeral. The village had seen nothing like it before, and never will again.
And so while inevitably kindling “with pale gleams the passion of former days,” Bladon revisits its moment in the spotlight from fifty years ago. Once again there have been BBC journalists in the village, radio interviews, and television cameras at the Church. Frank Hall, then the verger, published some previously unseen photographs of the gravesite in the Daily Mail. The commemorations started at the beginning of January with steady media coverage of the Memorial Window appeal [See FH 166.] A private service of remembrance for the Churchill family took place on the twenty-fourth, the day of Sir Winston’s passing. But most memorable was the anniversary of the funeral on the thirtieth. Read More >
With Richard Dimbleby’s peerless commentary on the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill ringing in our ears, reporter William Crawley conducts us on a radio tour that starts in London and leads to Bladon, where he explores the simple setting of Churchill’s grave.
After a symbolic railway journey, we arrive at the station of Hanborough and are picked up by local taxi driver Nicky, who points out that some visitors to close-by Blenheim Palace do not even realise that Churchill is buried so near. Arriving at the Parish Church of St. Martin’s, Churchwarden Mollie Hance notes how Churchill lies with his family next to his father, mother and brother, as “all of us would like to rest.” John Anson, who lives just outside the graveyard, explains how the villagers feel that they are the protectors of an important local tradition.
No one is more aware of this than the Rector, Canon Adrian Daffern, who guides the listener through the simple and peaceful Church and sees the people who come inside to reflect. Their names fill the visitors book. People travel not only from Britain but from Winnipeg, Detroit, Oklahoma, Kansas, California, and Alabama. Read More >
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, BBC One produced a one-hour documentary presented by Jeremy Paxman. Using archival footage and interviews with survivors who took part in the ceremonies, the results are splendid—but for one not-so-small detail.
First, though, the good: Paxman speaks with London Mayor Boris Johnson, author of The Churchill Factor (reviewed in FH 166) about the relevancy of Churchill’s legacy. The ever-effusive Johnson will have no part of Paxman’s suggestion that Churchill may not be part of the consciousness of today’s youth.
Churchill’s grandchildren Sir Nicholas Soames and Celia Sandys provide personal memories from the family, while Lady Williams (formerly Jane Portal, personal secretary from 1949-55) illustrates the level of devotion among those who worked for Sir Winston. Read More >
On Tuesday, 3 February, Sir Martin Gilbert passed away peacefully in London at the age of 78 after a long and serious illness. In addition to being the official biographer of Winston Churchill, he was a leading historian of the twentieth century, who produced more than eighty books on topics that included the two World Wars, Jewish studies and the Holocaust.
Sir Martin was a longtime honorary member of The Churchill Centre who spoke at numerous Centre events through the years and contributed many scholarly articles to this journal. The autumn 2014 edition of Finest Hour celebrated his career with tributes from his numerous friends, including former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Gordon Brown.
Laurence Geller CBE, Chairman of The Churchill Centre, released the following statement: Read More >
On the fiftieth anniversary of the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, the Governor General of New Zealand, Sir Jerry Mateparae, spoke at Government House Auckland to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
Lt. Gen. The Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry MateparaeOn 30 January 1965—fifty years ago today—the world paused for a moment as the great statesman Winston Churchill was laid to rest. It was a day of mourning on a scale not often seen. Unusually, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II attended Churchill’s funeral, in what was a gathering of Presidents, Princes and Prime Ministers like no other. Footage of that day, even fifty years on, still holds enormous emotional power.
Amongst the pageantry, the gun salutes and the marching soldiers, it is perhaps the simplest tribute that stands out the most. As Churchill’s coffin passes up the Thames, carried by MV Havengore, London’s dockers one by one lower their crane-jibs in a final, moving salute. Read More >
Remarks made by former Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies on the BBC during Churchill’s Funeral.
Some day, some year, there will be old men and women whose pride it will be to say, “I lived in Churchill’s time.” Some will be able to say, “I saw him, and I heard him—the unforgettable voice and the immortal words.” And some will be able to say, “I knew him, and talked with him, and was his friend.”
This I can, with a mixture of pride and humility, say for myself. The memory of this moves me deeply now that he is dead, but is gloriously remembered by me as he goes to his burial amid the sorrow, and pride, and thanks, of all of you who stand and feel for yourselves and for so many millions. Read More >
Fifty years have passed since the death of democracy’s greatest lion, Sir Winston Churchill.
When human civilisation hung in the balance, Sir Winston Churchill gave the world courage and hope.
He warned the world of the Nazi menace. Later, after the Nazis were defeated, he warned of the threat of the ‘iron curtain’.
Churchill taught us that appeasement is never the answer to aggression.
He also taught us that individuals and nations have a duty to speak up for freedom and to stand against tyranny.
Churchill was a complex man. He was not perfect, far from it.
He failed many times during his life. Fortunately he was a man who learned from his failures. As Churchill reflected when he was commissioned as Prime Minister in 1940: “My past life has been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial”.
In the world’s darkest hour, Churchill and Britain stood resolute against Hitler’s tyranny.
Half a century ago, Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies paid tribute to the wartime service of Churchill:
“In the whole of recorded modern history, this was, I believe, the one occasion when one man, with one soaring imagination, with one fire burning in him, and with one unrivalled capacity for conveying it to others, won a crucial victory not only for the forces…but for the very spirit of human freedom.”
On this 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s passing, we pay tribute to his legacy.
Churchill served his parliament for 55 years and his fingerprints were on everything – including the introduction of the aged pension and the minimum wage.
We draw strength from the memory of a man who taught the world that freedom, liberty and democracy must always be defended. We also draw strength from the power of his words, which serve as a reminder of the essential truths that still hold fast today.
Today, we remember Sir Winston Churchill’s life and honour his service to the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and our world.
The Hon Tony Abbott MP Prime Minister of Australia 15 January 2015
Winston Churchill Will Never Be Forgotten. That was the message reverberating through the hallowed halls of the historic Trinity College Chapel at the University of Toronto on 24 January 2015. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death, The Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy and the John W. Graham Library at Trinity College hosted a commemorative ceremony based on the original Order of Service for Sir Winston’s funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral.
The idea originated with Linda Corman, Head Librarian at Trinity College and a director of the Society. Trinity College is home to one of the world’s largest collections of books by and about Churchill, acquired over thirty years from generous donors and fundraising efforts. So it was natural that the service be held in the same college where the Churchill Collection has been preserved and maintained. As with Churchill’s actual funeral, planning for this event required much time. The response was overwhelming. With Churchillians from far and wide coming to pay their respects, registration had to be closed off early. Read More >
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, two members of the United States House of Representatives addressed the chamber. Here are their remarks as recorded in the Congressional Record for 22 January 2015.
Hon. George E.B. Holding of North Carolina
Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, January 24, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill. Over the past half century, he has passed from memory into history, yet stands unchallenged as one of the greatest figures of modern times.
Born of an American mother and a British father, his life and career symbolized the fellowship of the English-speaking peoples.
Just outside this very Chamber, Mr. Speaker, stands an enduring tribute to the ‘‘British Bulldog’’ in the Freedom Foyer. The placement of Churchill’s bust inside the U.S. Capitol [donated in 2013 by The Churchill Centre] serves as a testament to our special relationship with the United Kingdom and to the values our two nations have fought so dearly to defend: democracy and freedom. Read More >
Lloyd Hand was the United States Chief of Protocol for President Lyndon Johnson. In January 1965 he unexpectedly found himself part of the official US delegation attending the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. Fifty years later Ambassador Hand took the time to recall for Finest Hour how this turn of events transpired.
Ambassador David Bruce leads Chief Justice Earl Warren and Chief of Protocol Lloyd Hand into St. Paul’s Cathedral. Joe Scherschel / National Geographic CreativeFollowing the election of 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States in his own right on 20 January 1965, a bitterly cold day in Washington. Consequently, the President contracted pneumonia and was hospitalized at the time of Churchill’s death four days later.
President Johnson was a great admirer of Churchill and very much wanted to attend the State Funeral in London on 30 January, but his condition even after his release from the hospital was more serious than could be made public. His doctors advised him not to go. The President himself told me his situation was “dicey.” Postponing an immediate decision, President Johnson followed events closely and asked me to travel to London to investigate the feasibility of his making the trip himself. Read More >
Remarks delivered by President Eisenhower on the BBC as MV Havengore bore Churchill’s body up the Thames
Upon the mighty Thames, a great avenue of history, move at this moment to their final resting place the mortal remains of Sir Winston Churchill. He was a great maker of history, but his work done, the record closed, we can almost hear him with the poet [Tennyson], say:
Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me!… Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark.
As I, like all other free men, pause to pay a personal tribute to the giant who now passes from among us, I have no charter to speak for my countrymen—only for myself. But, if in memory, we journey back two decades to the time when America and Britain stood shoulder to shoulder in global conflict against tyranny, then I can presume—with propriety I think—to act as a spokesman for the millions of Americans who served with me and their British comrades during three years of war in this sector of the earth. Read More >
30 January 2015, the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral, saw numerous commemorative ceromonies on three continents. From Prime Ministers to young children, thousands paid tribute.
Above: (Left to right holding wreaths) Sir Nicholas Soames MP, Nathania Ewruje, Labour Leader Ed Miliband, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Prime Minister David Cameron, Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza and Commons Speaker John Bercow MP
Right: Program cover from the ceremony at the Houses of Parliament
Below right: Westminster Abbey
Below left: Inside Westminster Abbey, three of Churchill’s great-great-grandchildren lay flowers at his memorial stone in the nave
Frank Hall, now 91, was a verger at the parish Church of St. Martin’s, Bladon. He was responsible for looking after the gravesite of Sir Winston Churchill, including the flowers left by mourners. These photographs are from his private collection. Shortly after the burial, some of the hundreds of thousands of those who came to pay their respects file down from the lichgate of St Martin’s churchyardSenator Robert F. Kennedy pays his respects at Sir Winston’s still-pristine grave. Behind the place where he stands there is now a tribute to Sir Winston erected by the Danish Resistance.Lady Churchill writes to Frank Hall to thank him for his serviceThe original gravestone that was replaced when Lady Churchill died and was buried with her husbandThe gravesite in preparation for the day of the funeral
Winston Churchill is one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. His legacy looms large in the British national psyche and commands reverence from all quarters of the globe. The fiftieth anniversary of his state funeral offers the world a chance to commemorate his memory and celebrate his life.
In fact, this year sees a number of significant anniversaries linked to Churchill, including the sixtieth anniversary of his retirement as prime minister in 1955 and the seventieth anniversary of when he stood as an architect of victory over Nazism, followed by his defeat in the General Election. This year also marks the seventy-fifith anniversary of Churchill becoming prime minister and facing down the Blitz in the skies over London. It has been eighty years since the passage of the Government of India Act, which saw the defeat of Churchill’s antiquated and misplaced campaign to deny home rule to South Asia. Ninety years ago saw Churchill’s still controversial decision, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, to return Britain to the gold standard. And, finally, this year marks the hundredth anniversary of Churchill’s unsuccessful but daring campaign to force the Dardanelles Straits during the First World War. Read More >
Churchill’s granddaughter Emma Soames aboard Havengore | Credit: Tom GordonLast year, following the publication of my book about the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, a newspaper article about the book caught the eye of an employee of The Corporation of London who then showed it to his superior. They soon discovered that I am a Liveryman in the City of London of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries as well as a Freeman of The City who previously served as a Surgeon-Lieutenant Commander aboard HMS President, London Division Royal Naval Reserve. This convinced Corporation leaders to phone and say that I was wanted to halt some of London’s traffic on 30 January 2015. I thought they were alluding to the age-old tradition, now frowned upon by the Metropolitan Police, of herding a flock of sheep over London Bridge! I was, however, informed that The Corporation wished me to clear Tower Bridge and raise it to allow MV Havengore to pass through in salute to Sir Winston Churchill. Hearing this, I nearly dropped the telephone.
On the big day, accompanied by my wife and family, I arrived at the North East Control Room of Tower Bridge, where I was briefed on procedure by the Bridgemaster. At 12:40 pm Havengore cast off from HMS President downstream from Tower Bridge. The bridge raising procedure then began. Using the Tannoy system I made the announcement to clear the bridge, after which the road and pedestrian gates were closed. The four pumps, one at each base of the Towers, were switched on. A soft humming sound was discernible, but the remainder of the forthcoming manoeuvre was silent. Following the order of the Bridgemaster, I pulled back the black lever on the control panel, and the 1100-ton bascules began to move slowly upwards. Read More >
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.