Iceland: 1941. Stiff wraps. This Second World War Royal Navy Sailor’s album contains eight previously unseen, unpublished photos of Winston Churchill’s visit to Iceland on 16 August 1941, just two days after the historic Atlantic Charter was issued. The 6.25 x 9.5 inch (15.7 x 23.8 cm) album contains thirty 2.25 x 3.375 inch (5.8 x 8.6 cm) contact prints on Velox paper. Of these thirty, eight feature Churchill, one is of Ensign Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. and an unidentified officer, one is of the US and British troops lined along a road, and the remainder are various landscape shots of Iceland. There are an additional five images including a portrait of a Royal Navy Sailor and one real photo postcard of four men, three of whom are in military dress.
The album is in very good condition. The textured paper covers are clean, the front features “Photographs” in bright gilt script, the rear cover is embossed “MADE IN ENGLAND”, and the album is bound with tasseled brown yarn. “Scenes of Reykjavik | William Smale” is written in pen on the inside of the front cover. All photographs are in very good condition with minor silvering present on some. All photos are removable, held in place with album corners.
The snapshot quality, likeness in film stock across all photos in this album, both of Churchill and not, and the fact that these were printed on Velox paper, advertised as “the only photographic paper made exclusively for amateur negatives”, lead us to a reasonable certainty that these images are amateur snapshots and never published. We note that the pamphlet of photographs published to commemorate the Prime Minister’s visit includes many similar images, only at slightly different angles.
In August 1941, Winston Churchill braved the Battle of the Atlantic to voyage by warship to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, where he secretly met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt from the 9th to the 12th. Their agenda included setting constructive goals for the post-war world, even as the struggle against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was still very much undecided and the U.S. had yet to formally enter the war. The eight principles to which they agreed became known as the Atlantic Charter. “That it had little legal validity did not detract from its value… Coming from the two great democratic leaders of the day… the Atlantic Charter created a profound impression on the embattled Allies. It came as a message of hope to the occupied countries, and it held out the promise of a world organization based on the enduring verities of international morality.” (United Nations)
During his return to England, Churchill stopped in Iceland on 16 August. Accompanied by Ensign Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., Churchill led an inspection of the troops in Reykjavik. This was the first joint parade of British and U.S. forces during the war. A soldier recollected: “The Prime Minister appeared, stumping stolidly forward… There was a flurry as he suddenly barked ‘Bring me a soapbox’… He spoke to us for nearly a quarter of an hour… He would not deny that this was one of the bleakest times in Britain’s history, but he was confident that that we would survive, and with right on our side and help from allies – a glance to the ensign [FDR Jr.] here – we should win through to a great and glorious victory.” (Gilbert, VI, pp.1169-1170)
Even after Newfoundland, to Churchill’s frustration, America had still “made no commitments and was no nearer to war than before the ship board meeting.” (Gilbert, VI, p.1176) In his live broadcast from Chequers on August 24, Churchill rather modestly introduced the Atlantic Charter thus: “…a simple, rough-and-ready war-time statement of the goal towards which the British Commonwealth and the United States mean to make their way…” Not until December 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, did America formally enter the war, ending Britain’s two year solitary stance against Hitler’s Germany. Item #004871