Tributes to Churchill - 50 years on

Churchill greeting crowds in Heckmondwike on his last visit to the area in 1945.
Churchill greeting crowds in Heckmondwike on his last visit to the area in 1945.

It is 50 years today since the funeral of the man often called Britain’s greatest leader - Sir Winston Churchill - and the Reporter Series newspapers provided emotional tributes in the editions of the day.

The man who led Britain during its darkest times is regarded my many as the greatest Briton in history and, upon his death in 1965, the local papers held their own tributes.

The Spenborough Guardian remembered a visit from the Oldham MP in 1945 during an election campaign. More than 5,000 people turned up to greet the premier at the Swan in Heckmondwike.

An editorial that week described him as “one of the greatest men of all time” and continued: “Saturday will see the state funeral from Westminster Hall of a great statesman and warrior.”

Flags around the area flew at half mast on public buildings around Dewsbury, while messages of condolance were heard in many churches. Mayor of Spenborough Ald R Fraser paid trubute to Sir Winston, calling him: “One of the greatest leaders Britain ever had.”

A public memorial service for the premier was held in Mirfield Parish Church. Leaders of organisations in the town attended the service, and County Coun John Hardy paid tribute to Churchill at a council meeting that week.

He said: “The greatest Englishman of this century, the distinguished parliamentarian, the war leader of indomitable courage is with us no more, and the world is much poorer for his passing.”

Mirfield also sent a message of condolance to Sir Winston’s wife Lady Churchill. It read: “The people of this town will never forget the magnificent leadership of our nation in its finest hour.”

A telegram was sent to his family by the Mayor of Batley: “His services to this country will long be remembered.”

Lily Langton, from Eastway, Mirfield, had sent her own tribute into the Dewsbury Reporter in the form of a poem:

The flags hang low upon their masts,
Vacant faces slowly file past,
To honour a man whose deeds stand out,
“We’ll never surrender!” was his shout.
“This England of ours shall always be free,
We’ll fight and die to win victory.”
To the Nazi hordes his defiant stand,
Echoed inspired everyone in this land.
“We’ll fight on the beaches and in the street,
We’ll never give in or accept defeat.”
In our darkest hours like a beacon he stood,
John Bull in his splendour, his light was a flood.
To the world he gave hope when all seemed lost,
He never stopped to count the cost.
This England of ours still lives on,
All thanks to the man who now has gone, 
Every honour to the name he bore,
And God bless his soul on that other shore.
He’s earned his rest so do not mourn,
This man, this England, saw the dawn.