Cameron: Winston Churchill’s legacy lives on—50 years after his death
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
The Great and the Good gathered to pay homage today to Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the 50th anniversary of his death.
A flotilla of small boats left St Katharine’s Docks by the Tower of London this-afternoon on the same route as the funeral cortège on January 30, 1965, heading to Festival Pier at exactly the same time.
It was lead by the Port of London’s survey launch Havengore which carried his coffin on that cold winter’s day 50 years before.
Tower Bridge lifted at 12.45pm as the flotilla set out from St Katharine’s, passing HMS Belfast, the last battleship commissioned under Churchill’s wartime government.
Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute at the Houses of Parliament to his illustrious predecessor.
“Churchill’s legacy half-a-century after his death continues to inspire the nation whose liberty he saved and the entire world,” Cameron said. “His words and actions reverberate through our national life today.”
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Churchill’s enduring place in history rests on his leadership during the dark days of the Second World War, as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945, inspiring the nation to “soldier on” after the Fall of France and organising Europe’s resistance to Nazi Occupation.
He was at the heart of the nation’s fighting spirit during the Battle of Britain and summed up the role of the RAF: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many—to so few.”
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He kept London’s spirit alive during the Blitz, when the might of German air power was unleashed on the East End, the London Docks and the City, calling on the people to make it their “finest hour”, holding up the example of stoic cockneys that “we can take it.”
Churchill’s great-grandson Randolph Churchill laid a wreath on the Thames today to begin a day of events paying tribute to arguably Britain’s greatest prime minister.
He said: “People so admired what he managed to do in 1940 to inspire a nation and lead them through his great speeches and oratory.”
Victory in Europe was finally achieved in May, 1945, after five years of “blood, toil, tears and sweat” in Churchill’s own words, giving him a unique place in history.
Sir Winston, who was MP for Woodford in east London, returned as Prime Minister in 1951 before ill health finally forced him to leave 10 Downing Street in 1955. He stood down as MP at the 1964 General Election.
Dockers in the former London Docks and Surrey Docks lowered their cranes along the Thames in a spontaneous tribute on January 30, 1965, when Churchill’s coffin was carried on the Thames on his last journey through London.
Tens-of-thousands of spectators lined London’s bridges and the waterfront to watch the launch pass. Millions had earlier thronged the streets on that freezing Saturday when his funeral procession made its way through Trafalgar Square along The Strand, Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill, for the service at St Paul’s attended by the Queen.
Sir Winston Churchill was given a unique honour in the days before the funeral when his coffin lay in State at Westminster Hall to allow the public to file past. The queues stretched for two miles back over Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and Millbank.
Sir Winston Churchill’s death on January 24, 1965, was two months after his 90th birthday.