Saturday, January 24, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill. He was laid to rest on January 30th, 1965. Until the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Winston Churchill’s state funeral was the largest in history.
About the Sir Winston Churchill Funeral
- Planning for the Winston Churchill funeral took place over 5 years.
- The preparations for Churchill’s funeral were code named “Operation Hope Not”.
- Churchill’s funeral was attended by representatives from 112 nations.
- 350 million people (25 million in Britain) watched the funeral on live television.
- It is quite rare for the Queen to attend the funeral of someone outside the royal family but she did attend Churchill’s service. In fact, it was by her royal decree that the former Prime Minster would lay in state in Westminster Hall for three days prior to the funeral.
- In deference to the Prime Minister, the Queen was not the last to arrive. She arrived prior to the remains of Churchill.
- In a moving tribute to the leader, crane jibs that lined the River Thames were lowered in salute as Churchill’s coffin passed by. This was not planned by the event organizers and is said to have taken them by surprise.
- The military offered their respects by conducting a 19-gun salute by the Royal Artillery and an RAF fly-by of sixteen English Electric Lightning fighters.
- In a nod to Churchill’s close relationship with the US, the Battle Hymn of the Republic was played at the request of Churchill’s family.
- President Lyndon Johnson did not attend the funeral due to illness. Nor did he send the Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. Instead the US sent Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. While the White House nevewr fully addressed the reasoning behind this, there was speculation that the President was more ill than was revealed and did not want to send the Vice President out of the country in case something might happen to him.
- Former President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a close friend of Churchill, attended the funeral as a private citizen and delivered a personal tribute.
The Winston Churchill funeral procession took that most ancient road that runs from the Palace of Westminster to the steps of the cathedral of St Paul. It is a road that half the history of England seems to have taken, on its way to a crowning or to a public and ignoble death, to murder or be murdered, to raise revolt, to seek a fortune, or to be buried. The route was lined with young soldiers, their heads bowed over their automatic rifles in ceremonious grief. The bands played old and slow tunes. The drums were draped in black. The staffs of the drum-majors were veiled. They moved slowly, steadily, at a curiously inexorable pace, and it looked as if nothing could ever stop them. The great crowd watched with an eloquent and absolute silence.
About Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill Resources
Winston Churchill on bbc.com