30 January, 2009
Winston Churchill - my part in his funeral
Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral took place on this day in 1965. Along with other kids from our youth club, St Andrew's Westminster, I was recruited to sell the Saturday edition of the Daily Express throughout Friday night to the miles of people queuing to pay their last respects to the great man. It was a good deal: I think the paper cost 4d and we received a penny per copy.
During a long, cold night, I sold hundreds of copies and could have sold many more if they had been available. At daylight, I made my way past the crowds lining Fleet Street to call in at the Express building for my ‘commission’. Flush with cash, I enjoyed one the best breakfasts of my life along with print workers in a nearby café.
Now for the main event. I took up a great position on the entrance steps of the Daily Telegraph and waited for the funeral procession to pass. I remember the buzz that ran along the crowd and someone saying ‘He’s in the Strand, not long now.’ Time for a bit of a sit down. Alas, a full stomach and weariness from all that walking and calling out ‘Saturday’s Express' combined to send me into a short but deep sleep. When I woke up, the crowds were dispersing. Winnie had been and gone. The bobbing heads of horsemen disappearing up Ludgate Hill were all I saw of the historic procession.