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Death of King George VI – 1952

On 6th February, 1952 King George VI died.  It was a truly sad event.  He was a nice man.  He had shown his strength of character during the war by staying in London during all the bombing.  With Queen Elizabeth, he would walk through the rubble of bomb damage and sympathise with the bereaved and the homeless.

He had come to the throne by an odd turn of fate when his elder brother abdicated.  He wasn’t ready to be King; he did not want to be King.  He had an awful stutter which he all but conquered.  It is difficult today to understand the attachment we had then to the Royal Family.  To us, they were the unifying factor in a nation under threat.    If they had done anything untoward in their private lives, it would have remained private.

Newspapers did not pry in those days, except, of course, The News of The World, who constantly pursued erring vicars.

We knew that the King had been ill, but in those days little real information was released concerning the health of the Royal Family.   In fact, he had lung cancer and had had a lung removed.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth greet Canad...

Image via Wikipedia

We all saw film of him seeing off Princess Elizabeth on her tour of East Africa.  He looked haggard and drawn.

His death was still a shock.

British Movietone News was, of course, expert in what had to be covered.  The proclamation of the new sovereign from St. James’ Palace, then the Lying-in State in Westminster Hall where over 300,000 people filed past his coffin.

For the funeral on February 15th was totally covered by Movietone.  I was stationed opposite St. James Palace with cameraman Martin Gray, as the cortège came from the Mall into Pall Mall.  The bands played the “Dead March in Saul” it was a sad scene, but is was also magnificent and memorable.

One interesting event concerning the full version is that Movietone had been contacted by one Eric Dunstan who had been a Movietonews commentator during the 1930s and he offered his services again, his last commentary was in 1939.  He was quite old and had a slightly quivery but solemn voice, but they used him for a large part of the story alongside Leslie Mitchell.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about Movietone click here.

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