Middlesex surgeon marks 50th anniversary of Churchill’s funeral

A former surgeon of the Middlesex Hospital has turned historian by publishing a book about the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill and has been invited to take part in the official 50th anniversary ceremony in January 2015.

Rodney J Croft pictured at home.

Author Rodney J Croft has had a lifelong interest in Sir Winston Churchill. Photo: Hazel-Ann Croft.

Rodney J Croft trained as a surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital which stood in Mortimer Street and holds fond memories of the teaching hospital which closed in 2005.

“I came down from Cambridge in 1965 and was a clinical student at The Middlesex Hospital Medical School from 1965 to 1968,” he told Fitzrovia News. He worked again at The Middlesex in the 1970s and his three children were born in Annie Zunz ward.

Croft has had a long interest in Churchill and his semi-retirement from medicine has allowed him to fulfill his ambition to put this interest into words.

Cover of book, Churchill's Final Farewell.

His book Churchill’s Final Farewell is an illustrated account of Operation Hope Not — the codename for arrangements for Churchill’s funeral — and is the first book written entirely about it.

For his research Croft was given access to numerous archive papers and granted interviews with people who attended the funerals.

In 2013 he interviewed the 11th Duke of Marlborough who, as the Marquis of Blandford, accompanied the mourners from the service at St Paul’s Cathedral to St Martin’s Church, Bladon, where Churchill’s burial took place. He also interviewed the Countess of Avon, Churchill’s niece, who attended the funeral, and Mrs Minnie Churchill, who attended Churchill’s lying-in-state and is the mother of Churchill’s living heir, Randolph Churchill — Winston Churchill’s great-grandson.

On 30 January 2015 it will be 50 years since the funeral and Croft has been invited by the City of London Corporation to open Tower Bridge ahead of MV Havengore passing along the Thames as part of the remembrance events. The invitation was made after a member of the Corporation had read about Croft’s book and his research in the surgeon’s local paper the Epping Forest Guardian.

Croft told Fitzrovia News that he was asked to open Tower Bridge because he is a Liveryman of The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and also a Freeman of the City of London. “Freeman used to be able to stop traffic by driving a flock of sheep over London Bridge — now it’s by opening Tower Bridge!”

Croft who lives in Buckhurst Hill told the Epping Forest Guardian: “It is an enormous honour, I am very much looking forward to it.”

Churchill’s Final Farewell: the state and private funerals of Sir Winston Churchill, by Rodney J Croft with a foreword by Andrew Roberts, is available in paperback and various other formats.

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