Winston Churchill Will Never Be Forgotten. That was the message
reverberating through the hallowed halls of the historic Trinity College Chapel at
University of Toronto on January 24, 2015. To mark the 50th Anniversary of Sir
Winston Churchill’s death on January 24, 1965 The Churchill Society for the
Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy and the John W. Graham Library at
Trinity College hosted a special commemorative ceremony based on the original
Order of Service for Sir Winston’s Funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral. The idea of
recreating Sir Winston’s funeral and honoring the greatest man of the 20th
century originated with Linda Corman, Head Librarian at Trinity College and a
director of the Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary
Democracy. Trinity College is home of one of the world’s largest collections by
and about Churchill that have been acquired over thirty years from generous
donors and from major fundraising efforts by the Society and so it was natural
that the service be held in the same college where the Churchill Collection has
been preserved and maintained over the years. A special committee of the
Churchill Pillar of the Society had been planning the event for the past six
months and the response was overwhelming with registrations having to be
closed off in the days preceding the event and with Churchillians far and wide
coming to pay their respects to the memory of the great man. John Plumpton,
former Chairman of the Churchill Centre set the stage by recalling Operation
Hope Not which had been planned by Sir Winston himself. Following John’s
introductory comments, the pomp and ceremony of the original order of the
funeral service was recreated in full glory in the Gothic Trinity College chapel
which was the last work of British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who had also
designed Liverpool Cathedral and the famous British red telephone booths. The
Archbishop of Toronto, the Most Reverend Colin Johnson presided at the
ceremony which included recitation of the original readings, prayers, psalms
and hymns accompanied by organist with full choir, bugler and the presence of
the Governor General’s Horse Guards. In the procession the dignitaries dressed
in full formal attire included Dr Mayo Moran, Provost of Trinity College, the
Honourable Senator Hugh Segal, Master of Massey College and Recipient of the
Churchill Society’s Award for Excellence in the Cause of Parliamentary
Democracy in November 2014, Kevin McGurgan British Consul General, Joel
Watson Chairman of the Churchill Society, G.R. Randy Barber Chairman of the
International Churchill Society-Canada and Lieutenant Colonel C.M. Stewardson
Commanding Officer, The Governor General’s Horse Guards. Rousing
renditions of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, O God Our Help In Ages Past and
the National Anthems of Great Britain and Canada stirred all those in
attendance in the same way that mourners at St Paul’s Cathedral were moved
fifty years ago. Corporal Jonathan Elliotson, Bugler of the The GovernorGeneral’s Horse Guards pierced the hearts of all with The Last Post and Reveille.
The Dean and Chaplain together with the procession of dignitaries withdrew
from the chapel and led the way to a special reception which followed. Original
film footage from the 1965 funeral was replayed on a large screen showing the
events of fifty years ago including the arrival at St Paul’s Cathedral of Her
Majesty the Queen followed by the Churchill Family including Lady Churchill and
our late Patron The Lady Soames, the lowering of the coffin onto the barge onto
the Thames and the sad farewell at the train station before Sir Winston’s body
was laid to rest at Bladon. Linda Corman welcomed a packed Combination
Room at Trinity College and proudly showed some of the treasures from the
Churchill Collection and Chairman Joel Watson officially toasted the memory of
Sir Winston Churchill. For those who remembered the funeral it was a poignant
return to the past and for the many young people in attendance who were born
after 1965 including Ontario Legislative Interns sponsored by the Society, it
brought an important part of history to life. Sir Winston and his legacy lives in
the hearts and minds of Canadians into the 21st century.
--Robert O’Brien