Churchill’s funeral marked the fading away of empire

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It was – as Simon Schama has pointed out – the passing of an era – a very different Britain then.

Men in hats – removing them as the gun carriage and its procession passed by in its measured tread – as measured as the commentary of Richard Dimbleby.

A black guy in the silent crowd, his presence regarded as significant enough for the cameraman to linger over him in what would be regarded today as a breach of human rights.

Women wrapped up against the biting cold, students in duffle coats swathed in college scarves, men in uniform – Lee Enfields reversed – not a suspect act to fly the Union Flag then, policemen who don’t resemble Robocops.

A cold morning with a sunrise – that Turner would have portrayed on canvas – over a still bustling Port of London where the dockside cranes would bow in salute to the passing by and the passing away of the greatest Briton of the 20th century.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill – on his way down river on a humble barge to lie at rest under a humble memorial stone in an English country churchyard.

Its an epic if you watch it all the way through – living history – the fading away of empire and the emergence of the Swinging Sixties.

The great names gathered to pay tribute, themselves now dust.

De Gaulle in his kepi and thick-lensed spectacle, his own tenure on power soon to be curtailed; a youthful Harold Wilson; most poignant of all, a frail Earl Atlee.

I read recently of Richard Burton and Liz Taylor watching with tears streaming down their cheeks while Burton provides his own commentary in that great voice of his.

Watch it on YouTube with I vow to thee my country accompanying it and if your eyes do not moisten then you are made of stone.

Ron Clayton

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