London: Associated Press Photo, 30 March 1938. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston Churchill on 29 March 1938, smiling at Victoria station, London, with suitably prophetic images of lions in the background. Churchill had just returned from an alliance-building effort in Paris following Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria on 12 March. The gelatin silver print on heavy matte photo paper measures 9.5 x 7.5 in (24.1 x 19 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is crisp and free of scratches with only a smudge of what appears to be paint on the surface of the photo over Churchill’s left shoulder. The image is crisp and bright with high contrast. This press photo is from the archives of The Daily Telegraph. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Associated Press Photo”, a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated 30 MAR 1938, and a typed caption. The caption is titled “WINSTON CHURCHILL BACK IN LONDON” and reads, “MR WINSTON CHURCHILL ARRIVED IN LONDON TODAY MARCH 29 AFTER A WEEKEND OF POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS IN PARIS.” The caption identifies Churchill “ARRIVING AT VICTORIA”.
Churchill had spent the past five years warning about the dangers of a rising Nazi Germany, often at odds with both his party leadership and prevailing public sentiment. Just two weeks before this image was captured, Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Germany, was declared by Hitler. Churchill spent his trip meeting with French statesmen advocating allied Anglo-French resistance to Nazi territorial aggression. The British ambassador to France remarked that “Almost every facet of French political life has been presented to him at and between meals… At nearly all the conversations at which I was present Churchill strongly advocated a close Anglo-French alliance, with staff talks, military, naval and air; and also the joint attempt by France and Great Britain to galvanise the Central European and Balkan Powers to join together in resisting German pressure.” (Gilbert, Documents Vol XIII, p. 963-64) Instead, Churchill would become Prime Minister on 10 May 1940, just in time to lead his beleaguered nation during the fall of France to Nazi occupation and the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Despite the trials impending when this image was captured, Churchill’s smile is disarming and the fact that he is flanked by two posters featuring lions is presciently apropos. The lion has been ubiquitous in British heraldry for the better part of a thousand years. The association with Churchill’s rumbling oratory and implacably steadfast wartime leadership was perhaps inevitable. The iconic photographic portrait of Churchill taken on 30 December 1941 by Yousef Karsh – among the most famous photographic images of the twentieth century - came to be known as “The Roaring Lion”. In February 1943, an actual lion would accompany the metaphor; in celebration of victories in North Africa the London Zoo gifted a male lion named Rota to the Prime Minister. Years later, in remarks on his 80th birthday in 1954, Churchill would remark on his legacy: “It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”. Item #005248