Winston Churchill's Funeral


When Winston Churchill died on January 24th, 1965, getting news photographs from overseas news scenes to American news publishers was not almost instantaneous as it is today. Film had to be developed and transported across oceans. LIFE Magazine, which was published weekly, wanted to have coverage of Churchill's funeral in London on January 30, 1965, on the newsstands in America as quickly as possible. By coincidence, one of LIFE's executives lived next door to Richard Jackson, Seaboard's CEO. Jackson told the LIFE executive that Seaboard could help but their only DC-8 was unavailable so Seaboard chartered a DC-8 from Capitol Airways. Seaboard converted it into a flying news office and photo lab for a staff of 40. In the front of the cabin, Seaboard installed a 10 x 15-foot darkroom to develop the 70 rolls of color film from the funeral. Aft of the darkroom were layout tables and tables with light boxes. Farther aft were tables for writers, typists, and editors, and a small reference library including Churchill's published books. The rest of the cabin had seats for writers. These alterations required extensive modifications to the electrical system. The electrical modifications were supervised by Andy Flood, Seaboard's Avionics Maintenance Manager. Under his supervision, electricians rigged a 60 hertz electrical power system to feed the electric typewriters, the two dark rooms, the light boxes, and the film-drying machine. They purchased two inverters capable of converting 400 Hz power to 60 Hz and fed the inverters from the refrigeration power outlets located along the side wall of the cabin. Andy was led to believe that they would use Seaboard's aircraft and planned the installation on that assumption. When he learned that they were going to use a Capitol aircraft, he checked the Douglas electrical specs for their aircraft and found that half their fleet was NOT equipped with refrigeration outlets. He held his breath until the aircraft arrived and he saw the tail number; it was one of the aircraft that was equipped with refrigeration outlets. They rigged the aircraft overnight and had all the systems checked out. A line electrician was assigned to fly the trip in case there were any problems but everything worked as advertised. All this was done in less than six days, in time for the funeral.

Once the aircraft was ready, the LIFE staff boarded in New York and flew to London. They picked up the film and reporters and took off for Chicago two hours later. During the eight-hour flight, the film was developed by six technicians, the layouts were designed, and the stories were written and edited. The story about the funeral appeared in the February 5th issue. A story about the flight appeared in the same issue. It was written by LIFE's managing editor, George P. Hunt, and was titled, Putting 'LIFE' to bed at 33,000 feet.

The information about the electrical system modifications was provided by Andy Flood, Seaboard's Avionics Maintenance Manager.


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