London: Copyright The Associated Press Ltd., published by The Daily Telegraph, 1945. Photograph. This original press photo captures wartime Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 25 June 1945 raising his hat to the crowd on a 1945 General Election campaign tour. Labour’s landslide victory over the Conservatives ousted Churchill from 10 Downing Street on 26 July ending his five years of wartime leadership. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 6 x 8 in (15.2 x 20.3 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scratches with only light edge wear, original crop markings, and a horizontal indent across the lower portion of the photo. This press photo once belonged to the working archive of The Daily Telegraph and features their Art Department’s original hand-applied retouching to the figures’ faces and clothing. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Associated Press Photo”, a published stamp of the Daily Telegraph dated 26 JUN 1945, handwritten printing notations, and a clipping of the caption as it was published reading “MR. CHURCHILL waving to cheering crowds on his way from Rugby to Coventry yesterday, when he began his 1,000 mile election tour of the Midlands, the North and Scotland.”
The General Election of July 1945 was Britain’s first since 1935. Churchill began campaigning on 26 May, just eighteen days after Britain celebrated VE Day. His first speech characterized the moment, opening with words of celebration before pivoting sharply to the reality at hand, “The great victory in Europe has been won. Enormous problems lie before us.” This photograph was taken on 25 June, as Churchill embarked on a five-day election tour. Here he is captured waving his hat to the crowd from the back of an open-top car.
A newspaper article from this tour reports a similar scene: “The front ranks clambered on to the back of the car attempting to shake the Premier’s hand or at least to touch his coat. His cigar was snatched from his hand… At one point it seemed impossible for the car to proceed but when asked ‘will you turn back?’ the typically Churchillian reply ‘No, go on,’ and on the car went at a snail’s pace with the, by this time, nearly hysterical crowd singing, shouting, cheering, in fact, doing anything to make a noise.” (Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette, 29 June 1945) He reflected on this trip in a broadcast of 30 June, “It was wonderful to see the beauty of so many human faces lighting up often in a flash with welcome and joy, and this continued day after day along hundreds of miles through crowded towns and cities and also along high roads, where there were arrayed every few hundred yards groups and often large parties of men, women and children displaying the national flags and flags of other nations, and showering down their blessings and acclamations.” (Complete Speeches, Vol VII, p 7197)
Churchill warred with his own Conservative Party throughout the 1930s. Now, despite his personal popularity, his Conservative Party cost him the premiership. On 26 July 1945, Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell to Labour’s landslide General Election victory over the Conservatives. He would be relegated to Leader of the Opposition for more than six years until the October 1951 General Election, when Churchill’s Conservatives outpaced Labour, returning Churchill to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership.
During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism fundamentally changed the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives of 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 to edit them before publication. Today these photographs are repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005225