Winston Churchill: Services planned to mark 50th anniversary of wartime leader's funeral

Vessel that originally carried his body down the Thames will process in a flotilla as services are held in London

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The Independent Online

The 50th anniversary of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill will be marked by a series of events over the course of the day.

His granddaughter, Celia Sandys, said he would be “extremely surprised but pleased” at the attention as grandson Randolph Churchill laid a wreath in his memory below his statue in Parliament Square.

Speaking today by Churchill's famous statue in the Houses of Commons, the Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Britain's "greatest ever statesman" as he was joined by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Ed Miliband.

Mr Cameron, who represents the Oxfordshire constituency that Churchill was born and buried in, told the small assembled crowd: "From the Battle of Omdurman to Britain's acquisition of the H bomb there stretched nearly sixty years and throughout it all he was right at the heart of events."

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The current PM also noted Churchill's overlooked role as a "reformer," claiming that he "pushed for prison reform, championed old age pensions, and introduced labour exchanges for the unemployed".

Mr Cameron added: He "believed that a nation was made great not just by its military might but by how its poorest and frailest citizens were treated and that is another important part of his legacy."

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Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943 (Getty)

Later today the Havengore, the original vessel that carried his body down the Thames, will form part of a small flotilla tracing the route taken from Tower Pier to Festival Pier on the day of the former PM’s funeral.

The journey will start when Havengore cast off from HMS President, accompanied by a band playing Rule Britannia, and joins the flotilla at 12.40.

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The cranes are lowered by dock workers after Winston Churchill's funeral, 30 January 1965

It will process down the Thames, until stopping in front of the Houses of Parliament, when a wreath will be cast directly onto the water opposite the Palace of Westminister.

As the boats make their journey, the Tower Bridge will be raised in honour and there will be a four gun salute from MHS Belfast.

 

A remembrance service will be held in the Houses of Parliament.

Earlier, Mr Cameron said: "2015 is a year to remember Winston Churchill's extraordinary life of achievement, to admire and to celebrate it anew, and to give thanks for his service not only to the country he loved, but to humanity as a whole."

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