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A Chair for a Former Prime Minister

Lord Attlee. Fox Photos

Sir Winston Churchill’s State funeral was held on 30th January 1965. I had been appointed to be a Marshal to the Pall Bearers who included four former Prime Ministers and the wartime Service Chiefs. One of my duties was to deliver personally the official invitation and initial instructions to Lord Attlee. These he read with great speed and turning from his desk said ‘If Ismay can do it, so can I’. On the day of the funeral, the Pall Bearers preceded the coffin up the Great Steps and down the main aisle of St Paul’s. I noticed Lord Attlee was beginning to struggle and took his arm. However, once we reached the main floor of the Cathedral he began to regain his composure. After the service, the Pall Bearers again preceded the coffin down the Great Steps where they turned inwards to pay their last respects. When the coffin had passed I noticed Lord Attlee weaken and he clearly needed to sit down. Breaking all protocol, I rushed up the Great Steps as the Royal Family was dispersing, past the Heralds and the Household Cavalry’s dismounted staircase party. Brandishing my Marshal’s baton and mumbling ‘Make way. Make way’. I cleared a path through the departing congregation until I found a chair which I took back to Lord Attlee. He was by now ailing fast and said ‘Thank you John. Just what I need’.

John Browne

From: Grenadier Grins by John Browne, formerly Grenadier Guards

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