A lasting memory of Winston Churchill

LG 270115 David Kay, whose helicopter firm helped to cover the funeral of Sir Winston. Holding a photo of a helicopter he once owned. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150127-231341001
LG 270115 David Kay, whose helicopter firm helped to cover the funeral of Sir Winston. Holding a photo of a helicopter he once owned. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150127-231341001
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HALF a century ago, millions of people watched the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill at St Paul’s Cathedral, in London.

And, on Friday, as the nation reflected on the 50th anniversary of the former Prime Minister’s final journey, the Gazette spoke to an Angmering man who had a unique view of the proceedings – from the sky.

David Kay, of Lansdowne Road, played an instrumental part in capturing the aerial footage of the ceremony through the capital.

Aged just 32 at the time, he was the head of his fledgling aviation consultancy Westland Heliport in Battersea – which was the only one of its kind in London.

Mr Kay, now 81, recounted how the international press flocked and squabbled to get prime seats on the limited number of helicopters at his disposal.

“Unfortunately, if memory serves me right, squabbles developed between various press photographers, some waving different currencies at the pilots demanding to go lower and lower over Baldon Church during the solemn ceremony.

“It was fairly chaotic,” he added.

Mr Kay said that, at the time, he was not aware of the gravity of the event that he was helping to cover.

“We were just a service. My main concern was safety first, reliability second and keeping to a schedule.”

However, as the years moved forward, Mr Kay said he was proud to have been part of such an historic day.

“Looking back, it was a privilege to help – albeit indirectly – to make such a thing possible,” he added.

For a number of years after the event, David’s aviation consultancy grew, expanding across the globe.

He specialised in producing footage for both Hollywood movies and television, including providing essential transport to the national press to various breaking news stories across the country.

“Between us, we have done about 200 feature films – Lawrence of Arabia, The Battle of Britain, Thunderball, From Russia With Love – there’s a whole range of them.”

He added it was a dangerous business.

“We lost 53 friends in flying accidents,” he said. “My close friend was killed in Essex in a spectacular crash after doing something very mundane, helping to tag seals off the Essex coast.

“This was all after doing a great sequence in On Her Majesty’s Service.”

It was not until 1986 that Mr Kay rekindled his links with Sir Winston, when he became a travelling fellow with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

He joined the organisation after moving into property development overseas – operating mainly in France.

His role saw him travelling the globe to look at innovative new ways of building homes, which he could take back to benefit Britain.

He said: “With the 22 years I was associated with the fellowship, I had the privilege to see and enjoy the company of the most extraordinary people who make up basically the UK. There’s no other country on earth that has got the talent, ability and resourcefulness to turn that talent so quickly to something so beneficial for their country.”

Those wishing to find out more on the fellowship can see www.wcmt.org.uk