A surgeon-turned-historian has spoken of his joy at being asked to play a symbolic role in a remembrance service for Sir Winston Churchill.

Rodney J Croft, 70, of Queen’s Road in Buckhurst Hill, has been invited by the City of London Corporation to open Tower Bridge at 12.45pm on January 30, as the boat that carried Churchill during his state funeral passes through.

Mr Croft’s longstanding interest in Churchill’s life and death recently culminated in the publication of his first history book, Churchill’s Final Farewell, which covers the wartime Prime Minister’s state and private funerals.

His contribution to the historical study of Churchill's life is now being recognised after an employee of the Corporation read a recent article on Mr Croft in The Guardian.

January 30 is the 50th anniversary of the funerals and the vessel that carried Churchill’s body down the Thames from St Paul’s cathedral will take to the river again in act of remembrance.  

As the MV Havengore travels eastwards, Mr Croft will be stationed in a control room at Tower Bridge.

He will be in charge of the eight-minute process, which involves halting the traffic, raising the 2,200 tonne parts and then replacing them after the boat has passed.

He said: “It is not actually a tall boat. It is a symbolic thing, a salute if you like, to the memory of Sir Winston Churchill.

“I was overwhelmed by the call, it came completely out of the blue.”

“It is an enormous honour, I am very much looking forward to it.

“I think it will be quite a moving experience.”