To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Sir Winston Churchill, BBC Studios and Post Production (S&PP)’s Digital Media Services division has digitally restored historic footage of the British wartime leader's state funeral for the BBC Parliament channel.
The newly remastered film provides a minute-by-minute account of the then-largest state funeral in history, on 30 January 1965 (pictured), documenting the funeral cortège on its journey from London's Houses of Parliament to St Paul’s Cathedral, where the funeral service is shown in its entirety. The film then shows its final procession down the Thames to Waterloo, where the coffin is carried onto the funeral train to Handborough, near Bladon, Churchill’s final place of rest.
Uniquely, as S&PP explains, the unedited footage with which it worked is a recording of the funeral being played out on a broadcast-quality television screen in west London. This was due to cost: as film was a more economical and reliable way of archiving programmes in the 1960s, the best way to record TV pictures onto film was to use a specially designed cine-camera focussed on a TV monitor.
For the 50th anniversary edition of the film, Digital Media Services successfully reduced a high pitched whistle which occurred throughout much of the material. The S&PP team also had to resync the new audio with the restored picture – as the original reels did not match, they required a time-consuming resyncing on every reel changeover.
Winston Churchill's State Funeral – 50 Years On, introduced by Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Winston's grandson, aired at 9.15 on BBC Parliament on 30 January, mirroring the original timings of the 1965 state funeral. It is also available to view on BBC iPlayer.