Finest Hour 166, Winter 2015
By DAVID FREEMAN
Rodney Croft, Churchill’s Final Farewell: The State and Private Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill Available from Amazon as print-on- demand paperback, 168 pp. $15.75 or Kindle $9.99
This is the first book written solely about Churchill’s state funeral in January 1965. Croft is a semi-retired vascular surgeon based in London. His own memories of the events surrounding Churchill’s funeral fifty years ago inspired him to begin meticulous archival research in order to catalog the details and planning that went into the operation given the code name Hope Not. Though not without errors, the result is a step-by-step account of events from the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall to the final committal at St. Martin’s churchyard in Bladon.
Croft begins by describing Churchill’s decision to be buried not at Chartwell, as he originally intended, but at Bladon where his parents were laid to rest near the ancestral home of Blenheim Palace. This necessitated planning complex railway travel from London following the funeral service. But Croft covers everything: the lying-in-state, the procession of the funeral carriage to St. Paul’s, the order of service, the transport of the coffin up the Thames from Tower Pier, the railway journey from Waterloo Station and the final committal. The intricate logistics involving seven thousand military personnel and thousands more members of the Metropolitan Police are also documented.