Churchill’s Final Journey
SR S2462 Luggage Van – the Churchill funeral hearse
In September 2019 we were thrilled to take delivery of the SR S2464, the 1931-built luggage van whose eventful life saw it carrying everything from World War II casualties to the body of Winston Churchill on its way to his final resting place.
We’re lucky enough to have been given access to some fascinating research written by T.Bye for the Pullman Car Services Archive, so over the next few months we’ll be sharing some of S2462’s extremely varied history, which saw it ‘lost’ in the USA for three decades before being rediscovered and repatriated to the UK.
SR S2462: The Churchill Years
S2462 was first commissioned for service as Churchill’s funeral carriage in 1962, after Churchill suffered a bad fall resulting in a broken hip. At the age of 88, and needing two operations, it was feared that he wouldn’t survive, so preparations were made for his funeral.
S2462 was in storage at Worthy Down (a storage facility on a WWII spur off the former Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line), pending scrappage.
In July 1962 a BR Rolling Stock Inspector selected it out of 24 vans as being ‘the best of a poor lot, requiring the least amount of repair to make it presentable.’ This extract from his report gives a good idea of its condition:
|Last Paint date: September 1956, Crimson Lake Livery.|
|Body||Panels reasonably sound
Exterior paint bad - peeling off
Interior paint bad - peeling off
|Floor||Decalite good condition|
|Gangways||BS(A) - diaphragms perished
Scissors, face plates sound
metal extension frame - slight buckle at bottom corners
|Underframes||Steel Headstocks bent behind the four side buffers
Solebar flanges are thin
Wood main members, sound and dry
|Bogies||Press Steel - reasonably good
Wheels 9” X 4” Steel Disc, Tyres 2¾” profile good
|Mountings||Either side screw brake operative
2 vacuum cylinders, main pipe and steam pipes require testing
22” oval face buffers, gedge draw gear
CorPMV S2462 was moved and repainted into the then Pullman livery of umber and cream. At this point, Sir Winston recovered, so it was put back into storage, but under strict instructions not to be used.
When, on Monday 11 January 1965, Sir Winston Churchill suffered a stroke and died at his London home, preparations for a State Funeral, as granted by Her Majesty the Queen in honour of his role during the dark days of 1939 to 1945.
The funeral took place in St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 30 January, following three days lying-in-state in Westminster Hall, during which over 320,000 people paid their respects as they passed the catafalque holding Churchill’s body.
After the funeral service, Churchill’s coffin was transported along the Thames by Port of London Authority launch ‘HAVENGORE’ from Tower Pier to Festival Pier, then by motor hearse to platform 11 at Waterloo Station, where a train was waiting to receive the flag-draped coffin.
© P.A ‘Churchill funeral hearse’
A wooden ramp was fitted to the end set of doors of CorPMV S2464 (nearest to Pullman car 'CARINA'), allowing the coffin to be carried from the motor hears, by the bearer party of eight men and Regimental Sergeant Major from Sir Winston Churchill’s old Regiment, the 'Queen's Royal Irish Hussars’.
The funeral train
BR Class 4 Standard 2-6-4 tank locomotive No.80143 led the empty stock formation. Attached to the locomotive the train consisted of Pullman cars, 'ISLE OF THANET’, 'PERSEUS', LYDIA’, 'CARINA’, Pullman Liveried CorPMV S2464 and 'CAR No.208'.
Coupled at the rear was a further BR Class 4 Standard 2-6-4 tank locomotive No.80137, which assisted with the movement.
On arrival at Waterloo 80143 was detached from the formation at the ‘Up Main Through Inner Home Signal No.WB101’, located outside Waterloo Station.
80137 then propelled the formation to platform 11 and remained attached for heating purposes until just before the arrival of Battle of Britain class Pacific No.34051 'WINSTON CHURCHILL’, which backed down onto the train formation at 1pm, and coupled-up to await the arrival of the funeral party.
The footplate crew with the honour of taking 34051 ‘Winston Churchill’ on its historic journey consisted of:
- Driver: A.W.Hurley.
- Fireman: J.C.Lester.
- Pilot Driver: P.Talbot (Reading spur to Handborough).
- Chief Inspector: W. Neale
along with Train Guards
- Southern Region: Guard W.H.Horwill
- Western Region: Guard H.F.Simmons
© G.Plumb ‘Churchill funeral train passing Feltham
Keeping the troops fed
Information preserved from an original confidential memo from the British Transport Hotels Ltd Pullman Division Staff Circular gives us an intriguing insight into the catering arrangements on board, and what constituted a suitable meal for dignitaries in the 1960s.
1. Bearer party and Railway Officers.
These parties will take a plated cold lunch consisting of:
- Ham and Tongue with Salad
- Fruit Salad & Cream
The ham, tongue and salad is to be plated and made ready in the cars, also the fruit salad. An Attendant to look after the exclusive use of the bearers and Railway Officers to prevent excessive movement of Attendants through the cars.
The coffee will be made in urns - these are being provided by Mr. Whiddon, and must be returned to Victoria without fail after the event.
2. Main Party.
The following lunch at 22/6d. per head to be served on leaving Waterloo.
- Prawn Cocktail
- Chicken Supreme Panee au Beurre
- Asparagus Tips. Green Garden Peas
- Peach Melba or Cheese Tray
Notes on Menu.
Best quality supplies to be available. Prawns will be frozen variety with the cocktail sauce made on the train. The Chatham Rooms are providing chickens which will be prepared on the train - egg and bread crumbed and cooked in butter. Best quality canned peach halves. The ice cream and fresh rolls to be collected on the Saturday morning. The usual roll basket to be offered.
The standard bar stock cover is required. Requests have been made for wines and champagne to be available, and in good supply. Fruit juice and soft drinks also to be offered. The bearer party to have moderate supply.
Mr. Griffiths has this in hand - all silver to be in first class condition.
THIS SPECIAL BEARS AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF WORLD WIDE PRESTIGE and will be seen at Waterloo by millions on Television. PLEASE GIVE THIS EVERY CARE AND SPECIAL ATTENTION.
The train departed Waterloo on its sombre (though possibly not sober!) journey at 1.28pm, due to arrive at Handborough at 3.23pm. From Handborough, Sir Winston Churchill’s coffin was transported to Bladon, near Woodstock, not far from his birthplace at Blenheim Palace. There, as he had requested, he was buried in the family plot at St Martin’s Church.
After the burial, the funeral party returned to London, with a Western Region Diesel-Hydraulic type 4 locomotive No.1015 'WESTERN CHAMPION' at the London end of the train. The empty Pullman train then returned to Clapham carriage sidings, and the 34-year career of CorPMV S2464 on British Railways was over.
Its next journey would see it heading by sea to the warm and sunny climes of California.
This information has been adapted from Pullman Car services Archive February 2015 and reproduced with the kind permission of T.Bye.