From the Monitor archives: Britain bids Winston Churchill farewell
The legendary British statesman was laid to rest 50 years ago today in 'one of the most stirring and momentous ceremonies' in the country's history. The Christian Science Monitor reported as it happened.
These articles originally appeared in the Feb. 1, 1965, edition of The Christian Science Monitor.
The Magnificent Farewell
LONDON – The Bidding Prayer went to the heart of the occasion.
"Brethren, we are assembled here," read the Dean of St. Paul's, "as representing the people of this land and of the British Commonwealth, to join in prayer on the occasion of the burial of a great man who has rendered memorable service to his country and to the cause of freedom."
And then this Bidding Prayer to the funeral service for Sir Winston Churchill continued:
"We shall think of him with thanksgiving that he was raised up in our days of desperate need to be a leader and inspirer of the nation, for his dauntless resolution and untiring vigilance and for his example of courage and endurance.”
Millions of people would echo these prayers – in hope that the memory of Churchill's "virtues and his achievements may remain as a part of our national heritage, inspiring generations to come to emulate us magnanimity and patriotic devotion."
What will Londoners remember of this gray, cold, solemn, yet in many ways inspiring day, Jan. 30?
For thousands who lined the 2 1/2-mile route from Westminster Hall to St. Paul's Cathedral, the memory will be of standing in the cold – many waited all the preceding night – to watch the magnificent procession.
It was a spectacle as vivid to the ear as to the eye.
The cut and color and dash of uniforms of all services and numerous regiments filled London's ancient streets with a pageantry of which only the British are capable.
Circle of Cold
Mounted on a gun carriage, the coffin was draped with a huge Union Jack. The only other embellishment was a circle of gold – the emblem of the Order of the Garter, Britain's oldest order of chivalry – resting on a jet black cushion.
Ninety-eight sailors pulled the gun carriage, with 44 more on drag ropes behind.
Londoners will not soon forget the musical accompaniment to this in many ways unprecedented state occasion.
"Let there be plenty of music," Sir Winston had said, when drawing up the plans for his own funeral.
Plenty of music there was – from 16 bands. At one passage through London's business district, bands played in succession Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Handel, and Purcell.
At Tower Pier on the Thames, where the coffin was transferred to a launch for the next-to-final stage of its journey, Scottish bagpipers skirled their sharp, mournful tribute.
The accompaniment for the occasion ranged from the firing of 90 cannon salutes and the shrill scream of boatswain’s pipes to the tolling of bells and the brief whining zoom of jet aircraft as 16 flew low over the city in salute.
For the 3,000 of us who gathered for the half-hour service in St. Paul's, the memory will be one of solemnity, mingled with a kind of exhilaration.
The gigantic lights needed for television challenged the melancholy of the great interior, with its gilt mosaics, chandeliers, and soft stone walls.
Churchill chose the stirring hymns himself – "Who Would True Valour See,” "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord,” "Fight the Good Fight with All Thy Might,” and "O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”
From organ and choir the music responded to the lofty mood of the occasion.
With extraordinary timing and precision, the program followed the minute-by-minute timetable arranged by the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk.
When all other heads of state, diplomatic representatives, military and civic leaders, World War II veterans 'including Royal Air Force pilots from the Battle of Britain' had arrived and taken their places, then Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales arrived at St. Paul's.
Afterward, as the launch Havengore moved up the river from Tower Pier to Festival Hall Pier, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke a tribute over BBC.
Sir Winston’s wartime comrade and longtime friend said he had no charter to speak for his countrymen.
But the former President declared that, for the millions of Americans who served with him and their British comrades in the global conflict against tyranny – for them, “Winston Churchill was Britain."
By a Staff Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
LONDON – Britain said good-by to Sir Winston Churchill Saturday — while the world looked over its shoulder.
It was one of the most stirring and momentous ceremonies in the history of a nation noted for the tradition and style accorded such functions.
Four kings, two queens, presidents, prime ministers, and statesmen from 113 nations were there to do him homage.
So, too, were his comrades in arms from World War II, including former President Eisenhower and President de Gaulle.
Many eyes were upon Lady Churchill, the gracious woman who for nearly 60 years shared Sir Winston’s triumphs and setbacks. With dignity and grace, she carried on as during the years when she was so often at hand with quiet encouragement.
Massed thousands along the route paid tribute to the great commoner.
But shining through all was affection for the man called “Winnie" by high and low.
Queen Elizabeth II joined in the singing at St. Paul’s. Her presence, as a ruling monarch at the funeral for a commoner was, of itself, a remarkable and touching tribute to the man who often had counseled her as a princess and young queen.
The former Prime Minister and wartime leader earlier had lain in state for three days. During that time more than 320,000 persons had filed past to pay their homage. Evidence of Churchill’s mighty popularity was that this was even more than came to pay their respects to King George VI in 1952.
United States Secretary of State Dean Rusk, leader of the American delegation to the funeral, was unable to attend the services due to illness.