30 Jan 2015

Churchill had his flaws – but his legacy is with us today

Nobody can turn kitsch into culture like the British establishment – but the re-run of Winston Churchill’s funeral was something really rather weird.

As a small vessel passed through a specially opened Tower Bridge, the tourists from the UK and abroad seemed just as mystified as us.

It was the same boat that carried Sir Winston Churchill’s coffin along the Thames in 1965 and it was marking the 50th anniversary of his funeral.

Members of the Churchill family were aboard the Havengore, which travelled to Westminster in central London.

‘An affable man’

There was little apparent fanfare before the event. For many, though, it was a moving and dignified occasion.

Joy Hunter recalled working as a secretary in Churchill’s war room bunker complex: “He was an affable man – very affable. [He] would always say hello and ask you how it was all going whenever you met him in the corridors.”

She recalled how they all stayed around one evening to watch a film being projected. Churchill duly appeared at the last moment wearing pyjamas, brandy in one hand, cigar in the other: “Winnie’s here,” he bellowed,” let’s roll the film.”


Christine Cuss had a copy of her father’s book under her arm, a collection of his diaries of the Blitz in London.

“He gave us hope above all else. We lost our home but we could still have street parties and let the enemy know you can blow up our house but you cannot dominate our spirit.”

Complex character

But Churchill was a far more complex character than the 2D war leader. Unquestionably the right man in the right place for that task, he was so often the wrong man in the wrong place for so many others.

Churchill could not have happened today. He would not have been allowed. The disastrous stewardship of Gallipoli abroad to turning the troops on striking miners in these islands.


Churchill was an imperialist. He hated trade unions; he thwarted women’s rights and he championed Britain’s use of chemical weapons. No indeed, he would not have been allowed to happen today.

But his prime ministerial legacy from those five critical years of 1940-45 is clear and simple: it give people like me the freedom to write truths like this, 50 years on.

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