London: British Official Photograph, issued by Photographic News Agencies, Ltd., published by The Daily Telegraph, 27 August 1942. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, General Alexander, and General Montgomery, the two commanders he had just promoted, at Montgomery’s Egypt headquarters on 19 August 1942. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 6 x 8 inches (15.2 x 20.3 cm), a tattered paper caption extending an additional 1.25 inches below the photo. Condition is very good minus. The paper is clean, crisp and free of scratches with some light wear to the edges, pin holes at the corners, and light overall cockling.
This press photograph once belonged to the working archives of The Daily Telegraph. The verso bears a copyright stamp reading “British Official Photograph No. issued by Photographic News Agencies, Ltd.” with the hand-written identification number “BM17540” The verso also bears a published stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated 27 AUG 1942, and handwritten notations. Handwritten caption notes read “Returning from Churchill’s visit to Cairo and Moscow – Montgomery & Alexander appointments approval 19/8/42.” The legible remnant of the original typed caption reads “MR. CHURCHILL WITH (LEFT) GEN. AL…- C. MIDDLE… AND (RIGHT) GEN. MONTGOMERY, G. O…OF THE EGYPTIAN BATTLEFRONT DURI… DISCUSSIONS.” This photograph is housed in a removable, archival mylar sleeve within a rigid, crimson cloth folder.
The summer of 1942 was a critical turning point in the war for the Allied forces in North Africa. At the Second Washington Conference of 19-25 June Churchill and Roosevelt laid the groundwork for Operation Torch, the Allied amphibious landing in French North Africa. In July British troops defeated Rommel’s forces in the First Battle of El Alamein. But thereafter Allied momentum seemed to stall. Events of July prompted Churchill to visit the North African front. Complicating matters, two days before Churchill’s departure a message from Stalin was received requesting a visit. On 1 August 1942, Churchill flew to Cairo to assess command. Despite personal regard for General Claude Auchinleck, Churchill sacked him, making General Sir Harold Alexander Commander-In-Chief, Middle East. Churchill charged Alexander to “take or destroy at the earliest opportunity the German-Italian Army commanded by Field Marshal Rommel, together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya”.
Concurrent with Alexander’s appointment, General ‘Strafer” Gott was to take command of the Eighth Army, but Gott was killed while flying to Cairo (on the same route Churchill had taken two days earlier). Gott’s death meant that General Bernard Montgomery took over the Eighth Army instead. The command changes made - one intentional and the other providential – Churchill left North Africa for a front of a different sort - his Second Moscow Conference with Stalin “Shortly after midnight on 10 August.” Stalin was characteristically moody and demanding, Churchill firm but diplomatic and accommodating, each balancing Russian’s need for British aid against the British need for the Russians to keep fighting. Churchill returned to Cairo and his new commanders on 17 August.
This image was almost certainly taken on 19 August. Churchill later wrote “On August 19… I drove with Alexander in his car out from Cairo past the Pyramids, about a hundred and thirty miles through the desert… As the shadows lengthened we reached Montgomery’s headquarters at Burg-el-Arab. Here the afterwards famous caravan was drawn up amid the sand dunes by the sparkling waves.” (SWW, THoF, p.514) In May 1943 Alexander would send Churchill the message: “… the Tunisian campaign is over… We are masters of the North African shores.” (THoF, p.780) Alexander, who had begun the war as the British Army’s youngest general, would become Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis. Montgomery would become Field Marshal Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, regarded by some as “the outstanding British field commander of the twentieth century.”. Item #005580