This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death.

Events will be held throughout the UK to commemorate his life and achievements as our greatest prime minister in living memory.

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has a list of events which will take place throughout 2015. They will update the list as new ceremonies are announced.

A dedicated website, Churchill Central, has more information about the life of this great man and the organisations which carry on his vision.

A number of people in their mid-50s and older clearly remember Churchill’s state funeral on January 30, 1965. The whole nation was indescribably moved by his death. Those who could travel to London did so to pay their respects at his catafalque at Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament or to watch his cortege pass by.

The Telegraph has a report on what happened during that day, which makes for interesting reading. Not only does it have photos and videos but also scans of newspaper clippings. To read it, start at the bottom and scroll to the top.

If this event seemed extraordinarily well planned, there was a reason:

Churchill’s death had thrown into action a plan which was 12 years in the making. In 1953, during his second term as Prime Minister, Churchill suffered a stroke, forcing the new Queen and her ministers to consider his possible death. A suite of rooms in the Houses of Parliament were set aside for the task while aides began researching how Britain had bid farewell to the likes of Nelson and Gladstone.

Scotland Yard had 1,000 men on duty. They were in position by 10 p.m. the night before:

the most extensive security operation of this sort ever undertaken in England.

If we think that today’s security measures are onerous, Scotland Yard took no chances 50 years ago, either:

The name of every person in every building in the line of sight was supplied to the police beforehand. These names were checked with a national list of politically uncertain people who might bear a grudge against particular leaders.

French President Charles de Gaulle, the American ambassador to the UK David Bruce and Supreme Court judge Earl Warren were the first to arrive at St Paul’s Cathedral that morning along with a Russian delegation. (President Lyndon B Johnson was ill and could not attend.)

Those marching in the procession route included:

– 2,300 personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force, including regimental massed bands.

– 150 resistance fighters from France, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries.

Nearing St Paul’s, the procession scene was as follows:

Now, trundling past the windows of Bush House, comes the gun carriage itself. Royal Navy gun crews draw it along, and behind it are the women of Churchill’s family in five black horse-drawn carriages.

The funeral liturgy took place at 11:00 a.m. The Queen and hundreds of British and foreign leaders and dignitaries were at the Cathedral.

Afterward, the procession continued to Tower Hill, passing through the City, London’s financial district. One man, now 78, recalls watching it from his office window:

I decided to take an 8mm film camera plus a reel-to-reel tape recorder, too. I opened the window, and placed the microphone on the sill and set the recorder running. I used a camera to take stills of the procession including the gun carriage with the coffin on top of it …

I don’t think I welled up, but I was totally overawed by it – especially the noise of the wheels passing.

Once at Tower Hill, the procession moved on to Tower Wharf. Churchill’s coffin was loaded onto the Havengore, a barge. It journeyed down the Thames to Waterloo Station, where it was placed on a special train to his hometown of Bladon, Oxfordshire, for burial. For several days, the local churchyard was inundated with solemn crowds queuing up to pay their respects.

The Havengore sailed down the Thames on Friday, January 30, 2015, from the Tower of London to Festival Pier in commemoration. Members of the Churchill family were on board to remember their relative:

this country’s greatest ever wartime leader. In a scene seared in the memory of so many, even the huge cranes that lined the banks dipped in salute as Sir Winston Churchill’s lead coffin was carried upstream on board the Havengore.

Aside from those on the streets of London for the state funeral that day, this last voyage was televised across the world to some 350 million viewers. Nicholas Soames, who was aged 16 when his grandfather died, has said that recalling the sombre pageantry still leaves the hairs standing on the back of his neck.

This remembrance voyage passed by the Houses of Parliament:

As the clouds darkened and raindrops spat down, prayers were said and the national anthem played on board. Then, just beyond the stroke of 1.30pm from Big Ben, Last Post sounded across the water, and a green wreath – embossed with a golden V for Victory created for the occasion at the Royal British Legion Poppy Factory in Richmond – was gently dropped overboard by Colonel Anthony Mather, who led the pall bearers at the funeral, and Barry de Morgan, former adjutant of the Queen’s Royal Hussars who escorted the coffin. It was carried swiftly away by the swirling currents.

The Telegraph reported:

The voyage was just one event among several on this day of commemoration, which had begun with a service in the House of Parliament and concluded yesterday evening at Westminster Abbey.

Prime Minister David Cameron was one of the first to lay a wreath at the feet of the Churchill’s statue in the Members Lobby, paying tribute to a “great leader and a great Briton”.

Sadly, we will not see Churchill’s like again in our lifetime. British consensus says that his views would be out of place in today’s society.

How true. What a pity.

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