London: Evening News, 30 June 1943. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill inspecting the Home Guard on 30 June 1943. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 7.5 x 9.75 inches (19 x 24.8 cm). Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scuffing, its chief flaw being a crease and two closed tears on the right edge. This press photo once belonged to the working archives of the Evening Standard. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Evening News”, a received stamp of the Evening Standard dated 30 June 1943, and a handwritten caption reading “Mr. Churchill inspecting Home Guard at the Guildhall (today)”.
When Churchill became Prime Minister on 10 May 1940, the war for Britain was not so much a struggle for victory as a struggle to survive. The possibility of invasion was a genuine concern. Anthony Eden proposed to the War Cabinet the formation of Local Defence Volunteers and on 14 May he delivered a radio broadcast calling for men between the ages of 17 and 65 to volunteer to protect their nation. Churchill found the word Local to be uninspiring and had the title changed to Home Guard. By summer 1.5 million Britons had joined. “Men and women worked night and day making them [weapons] fit for use. By the end of July we were an armed nation, so far as parachute or airborne landings were concerned. We had become a ‘hornet’s nest’.” (WSC, WWII, Vol.II, p.238)
Over the course of the war the initially untrained and sparsely equipped force acquired uniforms, ranks, and formal military training. As invasion became less of an imminent threat, the Home Guard’s duties shifted to the location and disposal of unexploded bombs and home front military relief to free the Service members for overseas duties.
On 14 May 1943, the third anniversary of the formation of the Home Guard, Churchill delivered a speech in thanks of the nation’s defenders. “We must not overlook, or consider as matters of mere routine, those unceasing daily and nightly efforts of millions of men and women which constitute the foundation of our capacity to wage this righteous war…The degree of the invasion danger depends entirely upon the strength or weakness of the forces and preparations gathered to meet it… You Home Guardsmen are a vital part of those forces”. The Home Guard was formally disbanded on 31 December 1945.
During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, with physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005219