A wartime British Official War Office press photograph of Winston S. Churchill descending the gangplank of Lord Nelson's HMS Victory during a January 1941 tour of the bomb-damaged Portsmouth docks
A wartime British Official War Office press photograph of Winston S. Churchill descending the gangplank of Lord Nelson's HMS Victory during a January 1941 tour of the bomb-damaged Portsmouth docks

A wartime British Official War Office press photograph of Winston S. Churchill descending the gangplank of Lord Nelson's HMS Victory during a January 1941 tour of the bomb-damaged Portsmouth docks

London: The British War Office, printed by Keystone Press Agency Ltd., 1941. Photograph. This is an original, War Office press photo of Winston Churchill (1874-1965) descending the gangplank of the HMS Victory taken in Portsmouth on 31 January 1941. The photo measures 4.75 x 6.75 inches (12 x 17 cm) and is in good plus condition. The glossy photo surface is clean with no tears or folds, though with some overall wrinkling. The verso features a typed caption which reads "British Official Photograph No. BH 3386. | (War Office Photo - Crown Copyright Reserved). | CHURCHILL AND "VICTORY" | Behind Mr. Churchill rise the wooden walls of "Victory", | that famous old warship in which Nelson asserted Britain's rule | of the sea. A picture taken during a visit by the Prime Minister | to Portsmouth. With him is Admiral Sir William James. FO. " A stamp in purple ink, covered by the typed caption, reads “KEYSTONE | Press Agency Ltd., | Fleet Street, London, E.C.4”. On 31 January 1941, Churchill took President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s close advisor, Harry Hopkins, to Southampton and Portsmouth, which had recently been savaged by Nazi air raids. (Gilbert, Vol. VI, p.999) It is hard to imagine a more potent and fitting symbolic background for Churchill’s England in the difficult days of early 1941 than the oldest commissioned warship in the world. HMS Victory remains a physical manifestation of British endurance and triumph over odds and eons. In 1805, Victory achieved fame as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson during the Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson sent the signal “"England expects that every man will do his duty" to the fleet before he did his, dying in the naval battle that saw England defeat the combined fleets of Napoleonic France and Spain. Churchill had served as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911-1915 until he was scapegoated for the Dardanelles disaster and forced to resign from the Cabinet. After his “wilderness years” in the 1930s, when the Second World War began Churchill was called back to reprise his role as First Lord on 3 September 1939, a post he held until he became wartime Prime Minister on 10 May 1940. When Churchill became Prime Minister, the war for Britain was not so much a struggle for victory as a struggle to survive. Churchill’s first year in office saw, among other near-calamities, the Battle of the Atlantic, the fall of France, evacuation at Dunkirk, and the Battle of Britain. Indeed, at the time this photo was taken, invasion by Nazi Germany remained a credible threat. Her Prime Minister set against the backdrop of her most ancient and famous warship was a reminder both of Britain’s past victories and the historic bulwark of her navy. Historian Christopher M. Bell, author of Churchill and Sea Power, wrote of this image “There are many photos to connect Churchill and the Royal Navy during the twentieth century, but it’s hard to imagine a single image that could more effectively link him to Britain’s long and glorious naval past.” We can be confident that the important symbolism was not lost upon the man who took the photograph, Churchill’s War Office official photographer, Major William. G. Horton. The War Office assigned Horton to Churchill throughout the Second World War. Of Churchill, Edward R. Murrow said: "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." Horton witnessed and chronicled this time, making many of the images that illustrate Churchill's wartime narrative. Admiral Sir William James, who accompanies Churchill on the HMS Victory gangplank, served at the time as Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. Churchill had visited Portsmouth with James on 13 January 1940. Upon that visit, Churchill was still wartime First Lord of the Admiralty, four months away from his storied wartime premiership. James recorded “The Dockyard men love him… and turned out in thousands to cheer. Wherever he was, frowns gave way to smiles.” (James, The Portsmouth Letters, p.30, quoted in Gilbert, Vol. VI, p.157). Item #004854

Price: $300.00

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