Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

28 January 2015

The year 2015 sees the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill, K.G., O.M., C.H.

Churchill received many great honours both domestically and internationally. Arguably one of the greatest followed his death on 24 January 1965: the grant of a State Funeral. This took place at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 30 January 1965.

The ceremony was arranged by the Earl Marshal with the Officers of Arms, the heralds, staffing his office and making the detailed plans. They also took part in the funeral itself. Volumes of papers relating to the ceremonial for the funeral are held at the College of Arms; a small selection are displayed here.


WSC Funeral Order Serv cover compressedCover of the Order of Service, showing Churchill's Arms within the Garter.

WSC Funeral Cere pp 8-9 compressedOrder of the Procession into the Cathedral, and the opening sentences of the Service

Operation Hope Not compressedPlanning for the funeral began early, under the code name Operation 'Hope Not'. Several draft orders were composed in the years before Churchill's death and issued to those responsible for organising elements of the funeral. Sir George Bellew, Garter King of Arms, was one such, and the College holds his copy of orders issued in July 1962 by Major General Sir George Burns. In this introductory page, Burns emphasises that the classification of the correspondence has been upgraded to 'Secret' for security purposes.

Procedure at St Pauls compressedPlan for the procedure to be followed at St Paul's Cathedral. The Queen's car was to arrive at the Cathedral via Godliman Street, immediately to the left of the College of Arms.

WSC Funeral order of procession compressedOrder of the procession through London

Feeding compressedPlanning had of course to take into account practical consideration for the troops lining the streets. Those who were not in a position to go to their barracks for lunch were provided with either tea and buns, or tea and a haversack ration.

WSC Funeral invitation compressedThe Earl Marshal's Office was responsible for arranging invitations and tickets to the Service, which included issuing invitations and politely declining requests to attend from those persons and organisations that had not been invited. Such communications were sent out in the name of A. Colin Cole, then Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms and later Garter King of Arms.

WSC Funeral ticket compressed














WSC Funeral Cere pp 8-9 compressedCeremonial showing details of the Earl Marshal's Procession into the Cathedral. Four Officers of Arms carried the Achievements of an heraldic funeral: the spurs, crest, targe and sword.

WSC Funeral time table p.2 compressedDetailed timetable for the funeral. At the beginning of the Service, the Officers of Arms lined the steps to the Cathedral as the mourners entered.

WSC Funeral timetable p. 5 compressedPage of the timetable instructing the Earl Marshal's Procession, of which the heralds were part, to enter the Great West Door of the Cathedral at 10.49. Officers of Arms process in front of the coffin, and after it is placed on the bier put the funeral Achievements onto the table before withdrawing to their seats. After the Service, they process out with the Achievements.

The original (black and white) BBC broadcast of the State Funeral can be watched online here. The British Pathé colour footage is here.

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