In this the fiftieth anniversary year of Sir Winston Churchill’s death much has been written and recalled of this outstanding leader who at times single handedly lead the stand against the tyranny of Hitler and the might of the Axis powers. But SANS wants to share the story of his truly remarkable funeral and funeral train. We also acknowledge both the significant research carried out by the National Railway Museum in York from whose website we have taken this information as well as the longterm planning and work that has gone into making the exhibition possible. For those fortunate enough to be in York in the near future the NRM exhibition – Churchill’s Final Journey runs from 30th January to 3rd May. This is truly history recreated.
Churchill’s funeral on 30 January 1965 was an historic event. While it was a significant state occasion, it was also an opportunity for people to pay their own personal respects. The funeral was watched on television by millions throughout the world, while thousands lined the trackside to watch as the train passed. The NRM will be displaying its locomotive, Winston Churchill, to mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s state funeral. Visitors will be able to see the locomotive for the first time since its cosmetic restoration. It will be displayed alongside the baggage van which carried Churchill’s coffin and the Pullman carriage Lydia which carried his family. This will be the first time since the funeral that these vehicles have been seen together.
The funeral signified the end of an era. Not only did it mark the passing of an historic figure, but it would also be the last time that a steam locomotive would be involved in a state funeral.
Sir Winston Churchill wished to be buried alongside his mother and father. This meant that a special funeral train would be required to carry the coffin from the state funeral in London to Handborough. Churchill’s coffin was taken from Handborough station to St Martin’s Church in Bladon where he was buried after a private service attended by his family.
However, Churchill decided to add one more request to the Earl Marshal’s arrangements, by insisting that his funeral train departed from Waterloo. This caused many complications, as Bladon was on the former Great Western Railway line and the natural departure point for such a journey would be Paddington, so why Waterloo?
Churchill revelled in the idea that the French President, Charles de Gaulle would have to walk bare headed under the archway that celebrates one of Britain’s greatest victories over France. De Gaulle would also no doubt see the greater meaning in this arch as a symbol of how Churchill saw Britain’s history from the Spanish Armada to the Battle of Britain, as the nation that would never lie down before a tyrant.
Such sentiments seem entirely alien to the twenty first century. However, Charles de Gaulle certainly understood the idea of a national myth; it sustained him in his long struggle to restore the honour of France after its subjection to Nazi rule.
Sir Winston Churchill was buried in a private service at St Martin’s Church in Bladon, alongside his mother and father. There were only two wreaths placed on his grave. One was from his wife, Clementine, and another from the Queen on behalf of the Commonwealth. When the service had finished, 80,000 people queued for hours to visit the grave.
For a great deal more historical information follow the link to the NRM website: http://www.nrm.org.uk/PlanaVisit/Events/churchill/main.aspx
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