ARY Special

Anniversaries of Wartime Heroes are in the Air

Today, January 30th 2015 marks the 50th funeral anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill and the birthday of US president Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II and again from 1951 to 1955. Famously known as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer (as Winston S. Churchill) and an artist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

On 24th January 1965, Churchill expired at the age of 90 in his London home after being severally ill from a stroke and 6 days later, his body was laid to rest in the largest state funerals in the history of the world which was attended by the representatives from 112 nations.

Churchill was laid at the Westminster Hall on the order of Queen Elizabeth II until his grand funeral service was held at the St. Paul’s Cathedral on 30th January.

50 years ago, Winston Churchill’s coffin had passed up the River Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier on the MV Havengore while the Royal Artillery fired the 19-gun salute and the RAF staged a fly-by of sixteen English Electric Lightning fighters.

The coffin was then taken a short distance to Waterloo station where it was loaded onto a specially prepared and painted carriage as part of the funeral train for its rail journey to Hanborough, seven miles north-west of Oxford.

The funeral train of Pullman coaches, carrying his family members, was hauled by Battle of Britain class steam locomotive No. 34051 named Winston Churchill. Thousands of people stood in silence to pay their last respects to their leader in the fields along the route and at the stations through which the train passed. At Churchill’s request, he was buried in the family plot at St Martin’s Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, not far from his birthplace at Blenheim Palace.

Today, once again in the memory of his grand state funeral and to recognize his contributions in England’s history especially the victory he made possible against the Nazi Germany, a reenactment of his funeral service will take place at the Houses of Parliament.

The Havengore, the boat which carried the wartime prime minister’s coffin along the Thames, will make its journey again from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey where flowers and wreaths will be laid at the green marble stone in memorial to Churchill.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that England owed a “debt of gratitude” to Churchill who was a “great Briton” during World War II and must “never be forgotten”.

L/Sgt Perkins who along with seven other soldiers had been given the honor of carrying the wartime hero’s lead-lined coffin fifty years ago recalled almost dropping the casket on the steps up to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“Half way up the second flight… Lord Attlee stumbled going in to St Paul’s and we had to come to a stop and [the coffin] did actually slide off the two front shoulders of the two bearers. It was very lucky that we [had] the two gentlemen at the back who were what we called ‘pushers,’ who pushed us up,” says Perkins fifty years later.

Churchill was the only “commoner” in the 20th century to have received the honor of a state funeral where more than a million people had lined the streets of London to see the procession.

On the other hand, United States of America marks the 133rd anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birth at Hyde Park, New York.

Roosevelt was born to Sara Delano on the night of 30th January in the year 1882. On his birthday FDR would honor devoted friends raise money in the fight against polio. He later became the 32nd President of the United States and led the country in World War II against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.

The relationship between the two heroes of different lands Churchill and Roosevelt strengthened in the 1940’s as they worked closely and led the Alliance to victory in WWII, only to be reunited years later on the same date, 30th January which became birth anniversary for one and the funeral anniversary for another.

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