50 years ago the people of Hounslow and Feltham turned out in their thousands to watch a steam train go by on the main line from Waterloo Station to Reading and on to Oxford.

It was no ordinary steam train for it was Southern Railways No. 34051 locomotive of the Battle of Britain carrying the great statesman parliamentarian and war time leader Sir Winston Churchill to his resting place near Woodstock Oxfordshire. It was in January 1965 that the ailing former Prime Minister had passed away and had been afforded a State Funeral with a Laying in State in Westminster Great Hall which is unusual for a commoner.

Many thousands of people lined up to view this historic occasion including myself, the queue stretching back along the Embankment and over Lambeth Bridge, but as the line was so slow in moving forward and it was getting quite late in the day I gave up and returned home. I would have had to some explaining to do if I had not turned up for work the next day.

How Churchill's death was reported 50 years ago.
How Churchill's death was reported 50 years ago.

I thought our young people of Feltham would like to mark the occasion and pay a tribute to the great man, a Guard of Honour of members of the Cadet Forces the Scouts and the Boys' Brigade could assemble on the platform of Feltham Station as the train passed through. In answer to my request for permission from British Rail I received a rather stuffy letter from some jobsworth at Waterloo telling me that they could not possibly allow me to do such a thing as after leaving the main station it was a private event. Such rubbish.

The people of the area were made of much sterner stuff and on January 30th as the train made its sad journey thousands turned out to watch in complete silence. Most had watched the ceremony on television from St Pauls Cathedral often referred to as the Parish Church of the Empire and then made their way to the railway.

The Churchill funeral train at Feltham in January 1965
The Churchill funeral train at Feltham in January 1965

The bridges at Feltham Station and the road bridge were crowded as was the bridge in Bedfont Road. In Queens Road the residents climbed over the fences at the bottom of their gardens to view from the side of the track. I joined the crowds on the open ground at Stony Wall to watch this piece of history unfolding and later heard that the story had been repeated all the way on the train journey to Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

And so closed a chapter in the history of this country we call Great Britain with the passing of a great Briton half a century ago.