Thursday, 4 November 2010

Old photos keep the memories alive

The 30th January 1965 continues to remain one of the most vivid memories my 70 year old Father has today. It’s the day the country said farewell to Sir Winston Churchill and the day my Father had the honour of being one of the members of the Royal Naval gun team that led the carriage that carried Churchill's coffin through the streets of London as part of the funeral ceremony.

Over 320,000 people filed past the catafalque during the three days of lying-in-state. On the day of the funeral the route from Westminster Hall via St Paul’s Cathedral and on to the Thames at the Tower of London was lined with thousands of mourners who had come to pay their last respects.

My Father in the Navy at 17
Having joined the Navy at the age of 17 it was my father’s ambition to  become a career sailor and emulate the role models of his senior officers, many of whom had served during the Second World War.

Born during the Second World War, my father grew up in Birmingham and as a young boy he witnessed and relived many of the hardships of those years through the rationing and the stories told by his Mother and her friends. He also had the constant reminder of the destruction as he played with his friends among the bombed out ruins, as Birmingham slowly rebuilt itself.

“For my generation and that of my parents Churchill was a hero, the man that saved us during the war and so to find myself participating at his funeral was possibly the greatest honour I could have ever had”

Further recollections recall the preparations that were discreetly taking place in the streets of London even before the official announcement that Sir Winston Churchill had died.

“I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect on the day and I seem to recall concerns by some of the  senior officers as to what the correct protocols should be at certain stages of the duty and procession” my father continues, “but we were just naval ratings and so we just got on with the job we were given”.

The event drew crowds from across the whole country and was broadcast on television to millions of viewers around the world.

“My lasting memory of the day is of the silence of the crowds as we moved along the streets. We didn’t know what to expect but I don’t think I had expected it to have been as quite as it was”

My father looks at his photographs and smiles as he taps at a small black and white face in the parade, “That’s me, just there…”

My father (circled) as a member of the Gun carriage team.
 © Pete Boswell. All rights reserved

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