Winston Churchill Funeral
Fifty years after the nation stood still for the funeral of its great 20th century wartime leader, St Paul's Collections Manager, Simon Carter, reflects on the events of 30 January 1965.
The planning for ‘Operation Hope Not’, the code-named funeral arrangements of Sir Winston Churchill, began in the late 1950s. Such was the scale and significance of the event that meticulous and timely preparations were essential. The Cathedral Archives contain a wealth of information on how the day was devised and executed: detailed instructions for every part of the day’s events, the liturgical programme, maps, traffic directions and even invitations survive.
They were not required for implementation until a grey Saturday morning in January 1965, four days after the death of the seemingly indefatigable,
wartime leader. The plans included provision for an extraordinary procession through London, a ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral, dispatch from the
Tower of London by river launch, a military fly past, construction cranes lining the Thames and a train from Waterloo Station to Churchill’s burial
place at Bladon in Oxfordshire; arrangements requiring the kind of military precision that would have pleased Churchill himself no-end.
order of service
|Download the arrangements|
Only a very few were privy to the secret preparations. The Duke of Norfolk led the organisation of events; the coordination of the religious ceremony naturally involved consultation with the then Dean of St Paul’s, The Reverend Walter Matthews. He advised on matters such the Order of Service, the seating plan and the schedule of the ceremonial, the location of the coffin and the arrival and departure of the congregation. The form of service was agreed by the Cathedral Chapter at a meeting in January 1959.