The death of a great Prime Minister

Three days ago I was telling the story of the 1st World War and the Prime Minister of the time.  Today we tell the story of another World War Prime Minister – Sir Winston Churchill –and his involvement in the first one and his control – and perhaps saving – the second one and his final departure from this world.

At the beginning of October 1914 Winston had gone to Antwerp – which the Belgian government proposed to evacuate – to meet the Royal Marine Brigade that was on its way there.  On his urging the 1st and 2nd Naval Brigades were also committed. Winston returned on 7 October, but Antwerp fell on the 10th October and 2,500 British men, many of them barely trained, were taken prisoner or interned in the neutral Netherlands. At the time Winston was attacked for squandering resources but he maintained that his actions prolonged the resistance by a week (Belgium had proposed surrendering Antwerp on 3rd October) and that this time enabled the Allies to secure Calais and Dunkirk!

Here is not the place to take his story of that war; the 1930s and his masterly work in the 2nd World War and beyond.  This story is of Saturday 30th January 1965 when huge crowds turned out to say farewell to one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers. Sir Winston Churchill was the first statesman in the twentieth century to be given a state funeral. He had been a very charismatic and influential leader during the tough years of the Second World War. In 1960 The Queen had granted permission for Sir Winston Churchill to receive a state funeral on his death.  On this January day The Queen and other members of the royal family attended the service in St Paul’s Cathedral.  There was a 19-gun salute and the procession was shown on television by millions of viewers all over the world.

He left a widow, Clementine, and three children. Two of his grandsons – Winston Churchill and Nicholas Soames – became MPs. In January 2000 a BBC survey voted him as the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century, and two years later he was voted the greatest Briton of all time.

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