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1965: Death of Churchill - the end of an era

Adela Forestier-Walker was 20-years-old when Sir Winston Churchill died in 1965.

She went with her friends to see him lying-in-state at Westminster Hall the day before his funeral on 30 January.

If it hadn't been for Winston Churchill I probably wouldn't be here to tell the tale, because I think there was a very good chance that England would have been invaded.

The Nazis would have come in and done what they did to Jews all over Europe.

I avoided being bombed because I was born after the Battle of Britain, but I feel his importance to British history is second to none.

Churchill managed to generate that most incredible feeling among the British people by his personality, stature and speeches.

He was the hero.

Blitz spirit

We went to see him lying in state on the Friday [29 January] - the day before he was buried.

It was very cold and very wet and we walked in the dark for a long time.

We joined the end of the queue - people know what the queues were like for the Queen Mum recently - I think they were even longer.

I hadn't experienced the Blitz and suddenly people were talking about that feeling the population got in the Blitz.

Nobody was pushing or shoving and everybody was good humoured.


"You could have heard a pin drop... There was no noise at all"

This was a really big occasion. We could have walked for hours and we could have queued for much longer in much worse conditions.

People were sharing their sandwiches and their Thermos flasks and it was just a wonderful feeling.

Inside Westminster Hall it was incredibly quiet. You could have heard a pin drop, nobody coughed - there was no noise at all.

The sentries on duty had the white plumes down the back of their head dresses. They weren't wearing the black fur, they were obviously Horse Guards - standing absolutely like statues.

It was a wonderful feeling, but it was over terribly quickly. I wanted to turn round and queue all over again.

I felt I was part of history - it was the end of an era.

In Context
A total of 321,360 people paid their last respects to Sir Winston by filing past the catafalque during the three days of lying in state.

The wartime premier was given a state funeral in London on 30 January 1965 and buried in the Oxforshire parish churchyard of Bladon.


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Winston Churchill website |  Churchill Archives Centre
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