50th Anniversary of the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

Today, 30th January 2015, marks the 50 anniversary of the solemn occasion of the State Funeral of one of our greatest statesman Sir Winston Churchill following his passing on 24th January 1965. Sir Winston Churchill was the only “commoner”, i.e non Royal, in the 20th Century to be awarded the honour of a State Funeral. The day is especially remembered in railway circles, following the service in St. Paul’s Cathedral, due to the his final journey by rail being from Waterloo to Handborough in Oxfordshire for the private family interment in Bladon.

The State Funeral procession led from St. Paul’s Cathedral, via the River Thames on the Port of London Authority launch Havengore, that travelled from Tower Pier and the Pool of London (even the Pool’s crane jibs were dipped as a mark of respect) to the Royal Festival Hall landing stage. From there, the procession went by road to Waterloo Station and onto the funeral train that comprised of Bulleid Battle of Britain class No. 34051 “Winston Churchill”; Pullman brake car No. 208; hearse van S2464S (an SR gangway bogie luggage van repainted to Pullman colours back in July 1962 and stored awaiting its eventual use); Pullman kitchen parlour cars “Carina” and “Lydia”; Pullman parlour car “Perseus”; and Pullman brake car “Isle of Thanet.

Folklore states that Sir Winston Churchill requested that should he pass on before the French head of Government Charles de Gaulle that the train should leave for Oxfordshire from “Waterloo” rather then the perhaps more logical Paddington, however this may not in reality be fact.  The official plans for the State occasion first started to be drawn up in 1958 under the code name “Operation Hope Not”. The train attracted large crowds along the lineside for its entire route as a mark of great respect for the man that had led and inspired many though the dark days of the Second World War.

My model of  "Winston Churchill" in her earlier Southern days as 21C151 as she  allocated to Salisbury and therefore makes an appearance on Fisherton Sarum.
My model of “Winston Churchill” in her earlier Southern days as 21C151 as she was allocated to Salisbury and therefore makes a regular appearance on Fisherton Sarum.

34051, numbered 21C151 in Southern Railway days (as pictured left), was a Salisbury engine for most of her working life (except briefly being at both Nine Elms and Exmouth Junction in 1950) and was sent to Nine Elms, from Salisbury, especially for this occasion and was driven by a Nine Elms crew namely: Royal Train Driver A.W. Hurley and Fireman Jim Lester. The locomotive famously carried a three disc head code representing “V” for Victory. Departing Waterloo at 1:28pm, the train travelled respectfully slowly on Southern Region metals to Reading where it joined the Western Region line to reach Handborough, via Didcot and Oxford, arriving at 3:23pm. 34051 returned back to Nine Elms light engine via the reverse route, whilst the funeral train itself returned to London Paddington.

Jim’s fascinating memories about that day, along with some great photographs, can be read here on the excellent Nine Elms Locomotive shed website.  Further information and pictures can be found here on the SEmG website.

After withdrawal in September 1965, 34051 was preserved in the National Collection and now along with hearse van S2464S has been cosmetically restored and is currently forming part of a special exhibition at the National Railway Museum in York.

R3300 Winston Churchill funeral train pack
R3300 Winston Churchill funeral train pack

Finally, as announced last December Hornby are marking the occasion with the release of their R3300 Winston Churchill funeral train pack comprising of Bulleid original style light pacific No. 34051 with cut down tender, in BR livery with late crest,  2 off Pullman cars, (although not prototypically the correct style of 1951 built Pullman cars) ‘Lydia’, ‘Perseus’ and Pullman liveried Gangwayed Bogie Luggage Van S2464 (note existing tooling is being used for the GBL and not strictly as per the prototype van that was modified with additional windows in the centre pair of doors). We await to see when this train pack will actually be available…

8 thoughts on “50th Anniversary of the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

  1. A time for reflection.

    I’m given to understand 1928 steel K-type Kitchen car ‘Joan’ was favoured by Churchill, or at least placed at his disposal during the war years.

    Withdrawn in 1966, does anyone know why Joan was never included in Churchill’s funeral train?

  2. Excellence in every sense depicting memories of honour, humility, respect and gratitude of all thinking people to the Nation’s – aye and why not the World’s and if not then Humanity’s greatest hero of the hour, of this generation. Thank you Graham, for giving us all these newsreels on this memorable occasion of the anniversary of Churchill’s state funeral. Am proud to say I was there among the onlookers, among the mourners that we were all. Working in Brussels at the time, I had come over and on my way, on the train, had met a good stout-hearted Frenchman, a farmer, who told me that on hearing the sad news, his wife had told him he must go to attend the funeral for all their sakes. I helped him find his way around in London as he spoke no English, and I guess he eventually located, found other brave Frenchmen who had come from France. Shall never forget his words expressing his feelings for Churchill: “He was ALL we had in those days – there was no one else to give us the hope we needed”.

  3. I was at boarding school and we were allowed a rare privilege of watching the TV coverage, particularly memorable the cranes ‘dipping’. Paxman’s extraction of the true story not at all surprising. I’ve ordered a Hornby set, but would greatly value your opinion on the most effective way of completing the full train, ie: Car 208, Carina and Isle of Thanet, to make a reasonably matching rake. Terry Bye’s excellent periodical on Pullmans does not, at first glance, explain the ‘brake’ annotations for Isle of Thanet and 208. Was a coupé especially reserved for the Guard of were more specific alterations made ?

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