The dockers, Churchill and the war’s most shameful secret

The Havengore, the boat which carried Sir Winston Churchill along the Thames during his state funeral in 1965, is pictured with Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast in the background as it repeats its journey from the Tower of London to Westminster. Dominic Lipinski/WPA/Getty Images

This was one of the most poignant moments in modern history. On a bleak January day in 1965, the cranes along the Thames dipped as the launch carrying Winston Churchill’s body passed the giant metal structures on the wharves on its journey from St Paul’s Cathedral…

funeral1…But in Wednesday night’s BBC1 documentary, Churchill: The Nation’s Farewell, a docker cast doubt on the spontaneity of the occasion by claiming the workers had to be paid.

John Lynch, who was working in 1965, said: ‘They [the dockers] didn’t like Churchill. I think I can speak for most, they didn’t like him. When they were asked to do it, the atmosphere was “no”. They were paid to do it. We didn’t work Saturday afternoon [the day of the funeral], we wouldn’t have been there.

‘There was a lot of arguments and rows about it. The atmosphere was that Churchill wasn’t a working class person. You’d see him with a cigar in one hand and sometimes a drink in the other, he just didn’t associate with us at all’…

So they voted for Labour instead. And what did the Labour Party do for them over fifty years, in the end?  Is Labour the party of the working class today?