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Two Reuter flashes on big news long ago

Jim Pringle's typically graphic account of the roar of guns in Saigon over half a century ago sparked a memory in referring to Sir Winston Churchill's death. Alone at the end of a solitary shift in the London bureau, I answered the phone: "This is (private secretary) Anthony Montague Browne. I have a statement for you. It is with great sad..." without hearing the rest, I filed a flash on the great man's death (it had to be) and the usual stream of follow-up stories.

The following weekend the burial after much public pomp and ceremony was declared utterly private, out of bounds to the press which agreed to stay away, except for Reuters which insisted on direct cover. So I was dispatched to the Oxfordshire village, armed with high powered binoculars borrowed from the racing department. Along with French photographers hanging out of trees, I adopted a stance of the Invisible Man while taking notes, a furtive, not-easy assignment. Though it did give a Reuters dateline on the final spot news of the Churchill era - Bladon churchyard, England, a probably exclusive record of an event witnessed by just 20 or 30 people. ■