Winston Churchill’s Funeral and the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Winston Churchill’s funeral planning, code name ‘Operation Hope Not’, had been taking place for over a decade before his death. After his death in January 1965, the plan was finally put into action.
First was the long procession from Westminster Hall to St Paul’s Cathedral. After the service at the Cathedral, his coffin was taken to Tower Pier for a boat journey down the Thames. It was then taken by road to Waterloo Station, before travelling by rail to be laid to rest in Bladon, near Churchill’s family home of Blenheim Palace.
Among the many people who lined the route of his funeral procession were men of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The regimental journal The Bugle proudly reported on the funeral in their Spring edition of 1965.
Just prior to Winston Churchill’s death, the regiment were undertaking training exercises on Salisbury Plain. The exercise they were undertaking just before they found out about the death of Churchill was known as “Parky Pronto”.
According to the journal, “Parky it was too. There was no shelter on Salisbury plain from the biting winds, rain and sleet.. Pronto (the code name for anything to do with the Signals) was not a very apt word to use in the name of this exercise.” Soon after they learnt of the death of Churchill, the regiment felt ‘the great honour’ and excitement of being asked to take part in the State Funeral.
Men of the regiment lined the section of the funeral procession route along Fleet Street. The detachment of soldiers was commanded by Major Anthony Creswick Elcomb, and led by the Bugles and Band of the 1st K.O.Y.L.I. They took up their positions on either side of the route of the funeral procession.
Lieutenant Colin Michael Sutton Kaye and Lieutenant Harris Norman Grimstone McLeod carried the Queen’s Colour and the Regimental Colour respectively.
The article reports that this task took a lot of preparation in the short time between Churchill’s death and his funeral, as funeral exercises with the Rifle are not part of a soldier’s drill syllabus. However, the regiment were not destined for television fame on this day, and The Bugle reported that while the regimental contingent performed ‘admirably’, they were disappointed that their stand was not within range of the Television cameras.
You can view a video of Winston Churchill’s funeral procession for free on The British Film Institute website.