Search

Highgate man who won Bafta for Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral marks anniversary

PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 January 2015

Borne by Guardsmen, the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill leaves St. Paul's Cathedral, London, after his funeral.

Borne by Guardsmen, the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill leaves St. Paul's Cathedral, London, after his funeral.

PA Archive/Press Association Images

The last military operation planned and undertaken by wartime hero Sir Winston Churchill is remembered this week, with Saturday marking 50 years since his death.

Peter Morley, who won a Bafta for his work directing Television coverage of Winston Churchill's state funeral for ITV. Picture: Nigel SuttonPeter Morley, who won a Bafta for his work directing Television coverage of Winston Churchill's state funeral for ITV. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Operation Hope Not, as labeled by the military, became the codename for the former prime minister’s state funeral.

A rare privilege to be granted to someone outside the Royal Family, it was planned with military precision and in extraordinary detail by Sir Winston himself. It became the largest state funeral in world history.

It was also a first for television, with black and white pictures broadcast around the world. An astonishing 350million people in Europe, and 25million in the UK, were said to have tuned in.

One of those who remembers the day better than most, and whose life intertwined with Churchill’s on more than

Peter Morley directing the coverage of the funeralPeter Morley directing the coverage of the funeral

one occasion, is filmmaker Peter Morley, a Jewish émigré from 1930s Germany who fought for Britain against his native country in the Second World War.

The 90-year-old of Hill Way, Highgate, was hired by ITV to direct Churchill’s funeral months after his work on the broadcast of Princess Margaret’s wedding in 1960.

Working towards an unspecified date, he said the five year task that followed was “incredibly daunting”.

He said: “I’d never done anything like this before and was put totally in charge of the whole thing from day one.

“One day, a courier arrived at my house with a huge, beautifully bound book called ‘The State Funeral of Winston Churchill’. The planning was unbelievably complex. The man had organised everything down to the last detail.

“After five years of working on it, he died. Days later, on a bitterly cold January 30, I was sat in front of a battery of monitors, in charge of 450 people and 45 cameras.

“For five hours, I didn’t stop talking – it was like conducting a fantastic orchestra.

“The technology was primitive back then, but these images brought staggering views of London into peoples’ homes in a way the city had never been seen before or indeed since.”

Pre-recordings featuring actors Sir Laurence Olivier and Paul Schofield, along with radio broadcaster Joseph C. Harsch, recreated Churchillian speeches while a 19-gun salute by the Royal Artillery, a fly-by of RAF fighters and a fleet of dockland cranes bowing in salute added to the pomp.

After passing down the Thames, Churchill’s coffin was loaded onto a train destined for his final resting place in Bladon. Thousands lined the train’s route to pay respect.

For many, watching this statesman’s passing at the age of 90 was a symbolic moment.

Commentators noted his death as the end of the British Empire with then French President Charles de Gaulle writing on hearing the news: “From today onward, Britain is no longer a great power.”

For Mr Morley, the ceremony was a “celebration of the man to whom London and the whole nation was saying farewell”.

Beginning his career in 1940 as a rewind-boy in a West End theatre, the filmmaker’s training was interrupted by the war.

Joining the Seventh Armoured Division, he went to Europe during the D-Day landings, joining Churchill in his fight against his native

Germany and fighting from Normandy all the way to

Berlin. He was later tasked with guarding the prime minister while at the Potsdam Conference in 1945.

Winning a BAFTA for his direction of Churchill’s funeral, his celebrated career saw him direct many films about the war, becoming one of the few to secretly interview Hitler’s sister, Paula Wolf (whom he described as a “dozy old woman who seemed to know very little about what was going on”).

Astonished to find ITV refusing to mark Churchill’s passing with a re-run of the footage, “because it thinks its viewers aren’t interested in history”, he is now keen to ensure the story of Churchill is not forgotten.

He said: “Despite some of the bad things he did, I was a great fan of his. He had won us the war, and he really loved this country.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

I live in the north west of London in the United Kingdom. Like the rest of the country, I have been looking on in bewilderment at the Brexit deal while politicians on both sides of the house vie for political supremacy. Divisions in government make for good news headlines but do nothing for the public’s confidence in its institutions.

Fri, 16:24

Normally we celebrate one business of the week – but today we’ve got three!

Fri, 15:17

A Routemaster bus will take 72 passengers on a journey through Greek Cypriot history, via Camden and Holloway, on Sunday.

Fri, 12:12

The latest twist in the saga of a Hampstead landlord who refuses to pay a controversial levy saw him bring a top barrister to his court hearing.

Fri, 09:48

Opponents of the 100 Avenue Road development suffered a major blow last night as Camden voted through a controversial plan that will funnel seven lorries a day through residential streets in Swiss Cottage.

Thu, 17:35

The families left homeless by the fire that destroyed the upper floors of Willow House in East Finchley last week said Barnet Council treated them “like ants to be squashed” in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

Thu, 12:44

The Temple Fortune community was celebrating on Tuesday after Barnet’s Finchley and Golders Green planning committee unanimously rejected plans to build housing on the old Templars Tennis Club.

Thu, 12:10

Tens of thousands of pounds, weapons and drugs were seized after searching a garage in the Peckwater Estate on Tuesday morning.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now