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Forces War Records Blog

ON THIS DAY: 24TH JAN 1965 - WINSTON CHURCHILL DIES

Sir Winston Churchill has died at the age of 90 with his wife Lady Clementine Churchill and other members of the family at his bedside.  

(Forces War Records Historic Library)

He suffered a stroke 15 days ago and gradually slipped into a deep sleep from which he never awakened. Sir Winston died in his London home at Hyde Park Gate. Earlier in his illness, there had been crowds anxiously waiting for news at the top of the quiet Kensington cul-de-sac - but when the announcement finally came there was only a handful of journalists in the street. Mourning crowds News of his death was announced on the BBC shortly after 0800 GMT. Within half-an-hour, crowds began to gather near his home to pay homage to Britain's greatest wartime leader.  

(Forces War Records Historic Library)

When Sir Winston fell ill, he was visited by one of the country's leading neurologists, Lord Brain, who advised on his treatment. Since then, regular medical bulletins have been issued by Sir Winston's own doctor, Lord Moran. Sir Winston has spent the past few days lying in the downstairs room he converted to a bedroom after a fall four years ago in which he injured his back. Members of the family were summoned to his bedside at 0700 GMT. Lady Churchill and the couple's eldest surviving daughter, Mary Soames, have been with him throughout his illness. Their son, Randolph Churchill was seen arriving with his son, Winston. Soon after, Sir Winston's actress daughter, Lady Sarah Audley, looking pale and drawn, arrived with her daughter, Celia Sandys.

(Forces War Records Historic Library)

Many television and radio programmes have been cancelled or re-scheduled to make way for tributes to Sir Winston. Sir Winston will lie in state in Westminster Hall - an honour not accorded any English statesman since Gladstone in 1898. His body will remain there for three days, before the funeral at St Paul's cathedral on Saturday.

(Forces War Records Historic Library)

In Context Sir Winston Churchill was laid to rest in the Oxfordshire parish churchyard of Bladon, with only family members present at the private burial. The church lies just outside the Blenheim estate, where he was born. During the three days lying-in-state, a total of 321,360 people filed past the catafalque. Huge silent crowds lined the route to St Paul's for the funeral. His political career began as a Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900 - but he became disaffected and joined the Liberals in 1906. He was First Lord of the Admiralty during World War I - but shortly afterwards switched sides again, to rejoin the Conservatives in 1924. Much to his own surprise, he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's government. He came into his own during World War II. He became prime minister in May 1940. His ceaseless energy, unflinching determination to beat the enemy and an ability to make great speeches, inspired the entire nation and eventually helped win the war. He lost power in 1945 after a general election brought Labour to government - but returned for a final stint as prime minister at the age of 77 in 1951. Failing health forced him to step down in 1955, but he continued as a backbencher until 1964. SOURCE: BBC      
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