BBC to mark 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill's state funeral

Date: 07.12.2014     Last updated: 07.12.2014 at 09.57
BBC One has announced today a new history documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s state funeral. Commissioned from Blakeway Productions by Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC One and Martin Davidson, the BBC’s Commissioning Editor for History, Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell (W/T), 1x60’, will be presented by Jeremy Paxman and will air on BBC One early next year.

This fascinating documentary will tell the story of that momentous day, 30 January 1965, when Britain laid its most famous statesman to rest.

Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC One says: “It is BBC One’s unique role to mark important moments in our history, and Jeremy Paxman’s special documentary about the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral does just that.”

Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History, says: “Sir Winston Churchill is one of our greatest statesmen and this fascinating documentary shines a light on not only that unique day, but on just what his passing meant to the nation he had steered through some of their darkest days.”

Jeremy Paxman says: “Like most people who saw it - I was a schoolboy at the time - Churchill's funeral made a huge impression on me. Fifty years on, I thought it was time to find out whether it was all that it seemed at the time. What was it that made Winston Churchill uniquely worthy of this spectacular send-off?"

In the programme, Jeremy Paxman meets a wide range of people who were involved in the events of that day – from soldiers who bore the coffin, to members of Churchill’s family. He also hears from Boris Johnson, author of a new book on Churchill, and from a London docker who remembers that some had misgivings about saluting the passing coffin with their cranes. In exploring the legacy of Sir Winston’s extraordinary political life, Jeremy investigates what Churchill means to Britain today, half a century after our nation mourned the death of the man whom many still regard as Britain’s greatest statesman.

Radio 4 will mark the anniversary by giving listeners another chance to hear Churchill’s Other Lives, Professor Sir David Cannadine’s 10-part series exploring Churchill’s relationship with entities as diverse as bricklaying, food, childhood, women and money. The series has been updated with two new programmes looking at Churchill’s association with science and with education.

BBC Two Daytime will also repeat the 2002 documentary about his life presented by Mo Mowlam, Great Britons and the 8x30 series In the Footsteps of Churchill presented by Richard Holmes (2006). It will also air archive content from 1965 - including the original obituary - and related films will include Young Winston (the 1972 biopic directed by Richard Attenborough).

BBC Parliament, will show The State Funeral 50 Years On. Introduced by Sir Nicholas Soames, the Grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, and featuring commentary from Richard Dimbleby, the programme will air to mirror the original timings of his funeral in 1965 - on 30th January 2015 from 9.15am. BBC Parliament is also collaborating with BBC Archives in the restoration of the original footage of Churchill’s funeral for re-broadcast. BBC Archives are engaging film specialists to work on the negatives to ensure the best possible restoration of some four hours of coverage, including recently discovered missing footage.

Notes to Editors

Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell is a Blakeway Productions (1x60 CHECK) film for BBC One. The Executive Producer is Denys Blakeway and John Hayes Fisher is the producer.

Churchill’s Other Lives is produced by Blakeway Productions.