Tayside and Central Scotland

Dundee man's pride at key role in Churchill's funeral

Crowds lining a London street as the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill passes along Image copyright PA
Image caption Churchill's coffin was borne on a gun-carriage, with his family in a horse-drawn carriage just behind

Fifty years on from Sir Winston Churchill's state funeral, one Dundee man looks back on the important role he played in the proceedings as Britain laid its wartime leader to rest.

A few days shy of his 93rd birthday, Harry Nunn is still hard at work with horses.

A volunteer at the Brae Riding for the Disabled Centre in Dundee, Harry has been around the animals his entire life.

And 50 years ago, he played an important role in one of the biggest events of the 20th century - the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader and one of history's great statesmen.

Churchill of course has his own Dundee links - before his two stints as Prime Minister, he was the MP for the city for 14 years.

His state funeral was a grand occasion, attended by world leaders and broadcast on television, and massive crowds packed the streets of London to see the procession pass by.

Yards behind the gun-carriage which bore Churchill's lead-lined and flag-draped coffin, his widow and family rode in a horse-drawn carriage - driven by Harry Nunn.

Image caption Harry Nunn was chosen to drive the carriage carrying Sir Winston's widow and family
Image caption Winston Churchill served as MP for Dundee for 14 years

"At the time it didn't even seem like you were doing it, but you could see the cortege in front of you the whole time," he said.

"What amazed me was, I'd never seen so many people. Right from when we came out of the House of Lords, right along Whitehall and all the way up, it was chock-a-block.

"And when you left St Paul's to go down to the boat, there were just as many people - you wondered where they'd all come from."

Royal groom

Mr Nunn was a groom at the Royal Mews, a member of the Royal household who looked after the Queen's horses and carriages.

Having served in the Army during World War Two, he briefly came face-to-face with Churchill a few weeks before the D-Day landings.

But he was chosen for one of the most important jobs at the funeral simply because of his familiarity with the horse chosen to draw the Churchills' carriage.

Image caption Now almost 93, Mr Nunn looks back on his part in the funeral with pride
Image caption He was employed as a groom for the Royal household in London

"I'd had the horse when he was young, so they thought I should go with him as it was his first trip out in public," he said.

"If anything went wrong he might understand things better if I was with him. That's how it all started."

And things did nearly go wrong, with the horse uneasy with the funereal pace of the solemn procession.

'Honoured and pleased'

"The young horse did well - he got a bit frustrated with going so slow, as they were hardly walking, it was at crawling pace. A young horse, he wanted to go," said Mr Nunn.

"When you get a big horse, they stride out well, so I got down and walked beside him for a little while, and gave him a tap to say 'behave'.

"It must have been hard for him, it was his first time out and there were all these crowds standing there."

After the funeral, Mr Nunn and the other grooms received a letter of thanks from Lady Churchill, which was pinned up on a notice board at the Royal Mews.

And although the letter eventually disappeared - Mr Nunn suspects it was binned by a fellow groom keen on keeping the place tidy - he still looks back with pride at the part he played that day in 1965.

"I was honoured and pleased that I'd done it, as it's something you don't get to do twice in a lifetime," he said.

"It was great to be asked to do it."

Image caption Mr Nunn still works with horses to this day at the Brae Riding for the Disabled Centre in Dundee

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