Remembrance service for Churchill

Published: Friday 30th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Events will be held today to mark the 50th anniversary of the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill – arguably Britain’s greatest prime minister.

Seventy-five years since his ‘finest hour’ in leading the fight against fascism, the nation will remember how it said farewell to its wartime leader.

In the morning a remembrance service will be held at the Houses of Parliament in recognition of Churchill’s unswerving dedication to his country.

It will be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said: “Half a century after his death, Winston Churchill’s legacy continues to inspire not only the nation whose liberty he saved, but the entire world. His words and his actions reverberate through our national life today.

“2015 is a year to remember Winston Churchill’s extraordinary life of achievement, to admire and to celebrate it anew and to give thanks for his service not only to the country he loved, but to humanity as a whole.”

The event will include a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Churchill in the Members’ Lobby.

Churchill’s career in the Commons began in 1900 and spanned 64 years, the longest in the 20th Century.

While a member of the Commons, Churchill sat for two parties, represented five constituencies and contested 21 elections. He held numerous ministerial positions and served as prime minister twice.

Later in the day, members of Churchill’s family will take part in a flotilla on the River Thames along the same route taken by his funeral.

It will include the merchant vessel Havengore, which carried his coffin, from Tower Bridge to the waters opposite the Palace of Westminster, where a wreath will be laid.

In the evening, a ceremony will be held at Westminster Abbey.

Churchill was laid to rest in the family vault at St Martin’s Church in the village of Bladon, and his body was conveyed to the county on a train from London’s Waterloo station to Hanborough in Oxfordshire, pulled by Southern Railway’s number 34051 Battle of Britain class locomotive, named Winston Churchill in his honour.

Today the full train – the locomotive and tender, a parcel van that bore the coffin and a luxury Pullman carriage called Lydia that carried family and funeral guests – will be put back together at the National Railway Museum in York for the first time in 50 years.

During its £35,000 restoration, the locomotive was repainted with BR “Brunswick” green livery, its missing whistle was replaced and rust was repaired.

The parcel van has also been restored to its former glory and the full train is now back to its best, ready to be displayed in the museum until May 3 as part of an exhibition, Churchill’s Final Journey.

Also today, the BBC Parliament channel is broadcasting the original live transmission from 50 years ago. It will be introduced by Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, and features the commentary of broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. The programme will mirror the original timings of the funeral, from 9.15am. BBC Parliament has collaborated with BBC Archives in the restoration of the original footage.

Robert Seatter, Head of BBC History Manager, said: “The BBC footage is a reminder of the unique place Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral has in British history. It was also a significant day in BBC and broadcasting history as it was the first state funeral to be televised, and was watched by countless in the UK and around the world, including the USA, Russia and Eastern Europe.”

During the event, cranes along the Thames dipped in a moving silent tribute to Churchill.

Pioneering former BBC broadcaster Peter Dimmock, who organised the corporation’s coverage of the funeral, said there was disagreement in Cabinet about whether that should happen.

Mr Dimmock, 94, who was then general manager of BBC TV Outside Broadcasts, said: “I was in the discussions about whether the cranes (near the Thames) should dip or not. It was fascinating because some people, much to my surprise, in Cabinet, said no, but the majority view was that they should dip when his coffin was put on the barge.”

Of the funeral, he said: “I will never ever forget it. It was the most moving and wonderful day.”

Published: Friday 30th January 2015 by The News Editor

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