I found it interesting on my walk around the city today that there were bunches of flowers at the base of the statue of Sir Winston Churchill – but thought nothing of it.
I found it interesting when I heard the bagpipes being played outside Trafalgar Square – but thought nothing of it.
Little did I know that today is the anniversary of the funeral of arguably Great Britain’s finest Prime Minister.
Sir Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister from 1940 – 1945 and again from 1951 – 1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was a man of many talents; an officer in the British Army, an historian, a writer, and an artist. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
The darker side from my ANZAC perspective of Churchill, is that he acted as First Lord of the Admiralty during the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, which resulted in the loss of 8,500 Australians and 2,779 New Zealanders on April 25th 1915. This saw his departure from government.
However, following the resignation of Chamberlain on 10th May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain. His passion and courage saw a refusal to consider defeat, surrender or compromise of peace against Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. This stand, along with radio broadcasts and speeches, inspired the British people and he led Britain until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured in 1945.
One of his most famous speeches; This was their finest hour was delivered On June 18th 1940 to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom – just over one month after taking over as Prime Minister from Chamberlain.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and it’s Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say ‘This was their finest hour’.
This history doesn’t go unnoticed by my kiwi heritage. Even in New Zealand, the man who was in charge in our darkest hour, is still pretty significant. Without him and his stubborn stand against Germany, the Commonwealth wouldn’t have been lead to victory and the world we know wouldn’t be what it is today.
I feel honoured, albeit ignorant, that I was walking through London without knowing what today meant. 50 years ago, Churchill made his final journey down the Thames to his burial place – and today that journey was recreated – all before my blind eyes.