Friday, 24 January 2020

We Will Never Surrender!

January 24th 1965, fifty five years ago today, saw the death of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, arguably one of the greatest statesmen of British politics in the 20th century. A week later, there was a state funeral. Tens of thousands came to London to watch the cortege travel to St Paul's Cathedral- and hundreds of thousands more watched the event on TV. We sat in front of our little black and white set all morning, with Mum and Dad reminiscing about WW2 [my brother was 3, I don't think he was that interested]
Churchill was an interesting character, born in the splendour of Blenheim Palace, he became a soldier, a War Correspondent and then an MP. He served in many positions in government; Chancellor of the Exchequer, First Lord of the Admiralty and of course, Prime Minister. During the war, he worked from the Cabinet War Rooms, deep underground in the heart of Whitehall. For over 40 years, he enjoyed a beautiful family home at Chartwell in Kent. 
I remember the funeral vividly - Richard Dimbleby [father of David & Jonathan] did the BBC commentary. After the service in the Cathedral, the coffin was placed on a barge, and taken down the Thames to Waterloo Station.
All the cranes alongside the water at the docks suddenly lowered their jibs in tribute as the barge glided past. It truly was an awesome sight.
Then by train, in a specially built van, the coffin travelled to Bladon Churchyard, Oxfordshire, where he was finally laid to rest close to his childhood home of Blenheim. I'm too young to remember Churchill as a wise and witty man, an inspiring orator, and influential politician - but that day, watching the funeral, I realised what an amazing impact he had had on our nation, especially during the dark days of Hitler. Fans of "The Crown" will know he has been portrayed as a loyal supporter and true friend to our Queen.
The cranes have all gone now - but I sometimes think of them as I walk along by the river in London. I've visited Blenheim, and Chartwell, and the Cabinet War Rooms too [the railway carriage is here in Dorset now, owned by The Swanage Railway]
If you are old enough to have watched it, what are your memories of Churchill's Funeral?
[my other memory is walking to the chippie afterwards- Mum hadn't prepared any lunch, so Dad and I were sent to fetch some. The queue was round the block, with other people doing the same thing!]



18 comments:

  1. I remember watching it on tv too, I'd have been about 18, I can't remember who's tv it was though as I was living in a bedsit and didn't own a tv.

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    1. Back then TV ownership was not as common, and I think quite a few people were invited round to other people's houses.

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  2. It is a tribute to a great man that he was given this send off. Has there been or will there ever be any politician respected in quite this way?

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    1. Not if the current crowd are anything to go by sadly...

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  3. As a 5 year old I had a conflated memory. Someone a few houses away had died about the same time and out of respect my mother drew the living room curtains. My understanding was that it was Winston Churchill’s cort├Ęge that went past our house in Romford.

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  4. I love this story! In which street did you live? (I was born in Romford, and still have family there)

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    1. Hello Angela, yes I’m aware of your Romford connection from your previous postings. We lived in Mowbrays Road off Havering Road on the way to Collier Row.

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    2. We used to live on Orange
      Tree Hill, Havering-atte-Bower and both our children were born in Harold Wood hospital! Often used to walk down to Collier Row with a pram and do some shopping in individual shops (greengrocer's, butcher's etc.) Vicki now in the East Riding

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    3. This is amazing - I know Mowbrays Road - Dad was Pastor at nearby Mawneys Road Baptist Chapel, and I stiull have family in Collier Row. And 50 years ago, I went to a Christian Music festival in Havering Atte Bower, on the village green. It was called "Woodenstocks"! I was born in Oldchurch Hospital.
      What a small world this is

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  5. I would have been 4 1/2 - older siblings recall that we were all taken up to London (we lived in Essex) to watch the cortege pass, but if I'm honest I don't have a clear memory of this. My parents were not the sort of people who usually went to events like that, which tells me how highly they thought of Churchill.

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    1. Another Essex person [see comments above]

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  6. I didn't watch the funeral at the time as there was no TV service available in Sri Lanka, back then. But, after I read this post, I looked online and watched a clip of it!

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    1. Back then, your country would have been known to us as Ceylon.

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  7. I think WC was a very special person that did what he had to, to get his country free. We are so fortunate to have had such a Leader. I was five and I remember the funeral on the television very clearly. Black and white and very sombre, the marching, the gun carriage with his coffin on. All very sombre. Sort of stuck with me I suppose as I had never seen anything like it before. We had a rented TV. The thing I remember most though is getting into terrible trouble for breaking the TV just before the funeral and we were lucky to get it replaced in time. In our front room the TV stood on a little trolley in the lounge. No fitted carpets in those days but a carpet square so the trolley was on Marley tiles. I went to switch over the TV which was a push button dial affair pushed the button and the TV fell flat on its face. Boy did I get into bother over that. Not perhaps the right association but have never forgotten either. Take care Tricia x

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    1. It was very sombre. I remember the music played was "The Dead March" by Handel. Does anybody have Marley tiles anymore? Or TVs where you have to walk across the room and press a button to change channels?

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  8. I do remember watching it on TV - though not quite sure if it was "live" here in Canada and I do remember the trip down the Thames - it's something I've always remembered.
    He was no saint - but then who is - and most of today's politicians from all sides - could take a lesson from him!

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  9. Indeed they could. As you say, not always a saint - but one did feel he considered the wisdom of his words before he said them!!

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  10. He was indeed an honourable statesmen. It's a pity that he was practically shunned by his contemporaries after the end of the war. He was also prone to much 'black dog' moments and took up painting to alleviate the depression he suffered throughout his life. His paintings are worth a look.

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