On Friday, 30th January, 2015 it will 50 years since the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill.
State Funerals are normally reserved for reigning monarchs but there have been State Funerals for commoners including that of Sir Winston Churchill, in 1965 and the Duke of Wellington in 1852.
A notable difference between a State Funeral and a Ceremonial Funeral is that in a State Funeral the gun carriage is controlled by officers and ratings of the Royal Navy using ropes and manpower alone.
In the case of a Ceremonial Funeral the gun carriage is controlled by the movement of the horses of the Royal Horse Artillery.
The gun carriage below was used in the funerals of the Unknown Warrior and King Edward VII. During the king’s funeral, a State Funeral, it was controlled by the Navy but during the other funeral, a Ceremonial Funeral, it was controlled by horsepower.
The tradition of using the manpower for State Funerals dates from the funeral of Queen Victoria when the horses drawing the gun carriage bolted, so ratings from the Royal Navy hauled it to the Royal Chapel at Windsor.
The gun carriage can be seen at Firepower, the Regimental Museum of the Royal Artillery at Woolwich.
As an acknowledgement of his long naval service, officers and ratings of the Royal Navy took the place of horses in the Ceremonial Funeral of Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979