On the morning of January 30, 1965, the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral followed a few hours later by his burial at Bladon churchyard. The lying-in-state at Westminster Hall had concluded earlier that morning at six a.m. During the three days that Churchill lay-in-state, 321,360 had filed past the catafalque.
In London thousands of people lined the route of the procession from Westminster to St. Paul’s, in places they stood ten deep, while a worldwide audience of 350,000,000 watched the day’s events on television. The BBC deployed 40 cameras to cover the funeral and the pooled efforts of the independent British television companies used 45 cameras. The High Streets in Britain were deserted that morning and most shops closed at 11 a.m. for the service. At precisely 9:45 that morning, as Big Ben chimed, the funeral procession began. In tribute to Churchill, Big Ben was then stilled. It would not sound again until midnight. The route of procession went up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and then up the Strand, Fleet Street, and Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s. The great procession was one mile long and included the Royal Marines, Royal Air Force, Household cavalry, bands, and trumpeters. At the rear was the gun carriage bearing Churchill’s coffin. It was pulled by 142 ratings of the Royal Navy who were accompanied by muffled drums beating at 65 beats to the minute. The coffin was draped in a Union Jack with a cushion that bore his insignia of the Garter. Behind the gun carriage walked Randolph Churchill leading the male family members, while Lady Churchill and other members of the family followed in five carriages that were drawn by Cleveland bays. A gun was fired at one minute intervals as the procession marched to St. Paul’s. These guns fired 90 times before and after the service to mark the 90 years of Churchill’s life. At St. Paul’s Cathedral Prime Minister Harold Wilson and most of the 3,500 strong congregation were already in place. At a few minutes after ten o’clock the golden maces of the House of Commons and House of Lords were brought in, followed by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chancellor. The heads of state and other representatives, including the Lord Mayor and sheriffs, then entered the cathedral. In a tribute to Churchill, Queen Elizabeth arrived before the coffin and official mourners instead of being the last to arrive as was customary. Inside the cathedral the beat of the drums could be heard as the gun carriage arrived. Outside St. Paul’s, the coffin was lifted off the gun carriage by eight Grenadier Guards. The pallbearers, Sir Robert Menzies, Lord Normanbrook, Lord Ismay, Earl Attlee, Lord Mountbatten, Viscount Portal, Harold Macmillan, Field Marshal Templer, Lord Bridges, Viscount Slim, Earl of Avon, and Field Marshal Earl Alexander, then took their places. Following the pall bearers, the guardsmen carried the coffin up the stairs of the cathedral and down the aisle of St. Paul’s. There was a brief moment of concern on the steps as Lord Attlee, who insisted on attending against medical advice, stumbled and the guardsmen had to come to a stop. The coffin was followed by Lady Churchill, her son Randolph, and other family members.
In the cathedral were representatives of 111 countries. Of those invited only China refused the invitation outright. Mongolia, the only other absent invitee, expressed regrets that it was unable to provide a representative to attend. The 30-minute service included God Save the Queen, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, hymns, the playing of the Last Post by a trumpeter high in the dome, and the playing of Reveille by another trumpeter from the Royal Hussars. After the service, Churchill’s coffin was carried out of St. Paul’s to the gun carriage by the guardsmen. As they emerged from the cathedral, the bells of St. Paul’s began to peal. Queen Elizabeth and others watched from the steps of the cathedral as the procession bearing the coffin moved off for the roughly hour-long march to the pier at the Tower of London. As Churchill’s coffin was taken away, Dwight Eisenhower delivered a tribute that was broadcast on the radio and television. After reaching the Tower pier, pipers from the Highland and Irish regiments preceded the coffin as it was carried by the guardsmen from the gun carriage to the launch Havengore. As the coffin was slowly moved aboard the launch, the Royal Marine band played “My Home” and then “Rule Britannia” as the Havengore moved out onto the Thames. The Honourable Artillery Company fired a 19-gun salute as the Havengore proceeded along the river. As the launch passed, the steam cranes on the wharves dipped in tribute, while in the skies above RAF jet fighters made a fly-past. At Festival Hall pier the coffin was transferred to a hearse and driven to Waterloo Station where it was put aboard a special train for Bladon. The train was pulled by locomotive 34051, named the Winston Churchill.
That afternoon Churchill was buried in a ten-minute service in the village churchyard at Bladon, near Blenhiem Palace where he had been born 90 years before. At Lady Churchill’s request there no photographs or filming of the burial at Bladon. After the service, the public was admitted to the churchyard. On Churchill’s flower covered grave there was a wreath from Lady Churchill and another from Queen Elizabeth with the handwritten inscription, “From the nation and the Commonwealth in grateful remembrance – Elizabeth R.”