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Operation Hope Not (1)

21st January 2015 in Archives Centre, Our Collections

Order of service for Churchill's funeral. Reference: Churchill Additional Papers, WCHL 5/9

Order of service for Churchill's funeral, Reference: Churchill Additional Papers, WCHL 5/9

Next Friday, 30 January, will see the 50th anniversary of Churchill's state funeral. This was a great occasion, meticulously organised by the Earl Marshal (the state official responsible for the great state ceremonies, and a post traditionally held by the Dukes of Norfolk), and was the grandest state funeral for someone outside the royal family since that of the Duke of Wellington.

"Operation Hope Not", as it was known, had been years in the making, since Churchill's health had begun to fail in the 1950s. Churchill himself had largely kept out of the planning (besides asking for lots of military bands, as he had always been a fan of marching music), but files in the archives show the years of work that went into the arrangements. Over the next few weeks, we will be showing some of the key documents relating to planning for the funeral.

Initially, Churchill had wanted to be cremated, and his ashes scattered at his beloved home at Chartwell, in Kent. By 1959 he had changed his mind, and decided that he preferred to be buried next to his parents in the churchyard at Bladon, near Blenheim, but this letter, sent by Anthony Montague Browne, Churchill's secretary, to Lady Churchill in summer 1958, shows how the early plans for the funeral looked.

Letter on Churchill's funeral
Reverse of letter on Churchill's funeral

Letter from Anthony Montague Browne to Lady Churchill on early plans for the funeral. Reference: Churchill Papers, CHUR 1/137/24. Reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown on behalf of the Churchill family.

Read Part Two

For more information on Churchill in 2015, take a look at the new Churchill Central website.

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