London: Keystone Press Agency Ltd., 12 May 1947. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill, accompanied by French Prime Minister Paul Ramadier, meeting war-wounded veterans in Paris on 10 May 1947. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 7.25 x 9.5 in (18.4 x 24.1 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is crisp and clean with only minor edge wear, and light cockling. This press photo was once a part of the working archives of The Daily Telegraph and features their Art Department’s original hand-applied retouching to the figures’ clothes and hands, as well as original crop markings.
The verso bears a copyright stamp of “Keystone Press Agency Ltd.”, a second copyright stamp from Keystone’s Paris agency, a reproduction fee stamp, a published stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated 12 MAY 1947, handwritten printing notations, a French caption typed directly onto the photograph, and a typed caption reading “M. CHURCHILL shaking hands with an ex-Serviceman one of the war-wounded men whom he greeted in the courtyard of the Invalides, Paris, Previously Mr. Churchill had been decorated with the Medaille Militaire by M. Ramadier who can be seen behind him.”
As a young cavalry officer and war correspondent half a century before, Churchill had actively sought battlefield “glory” and witnessed the devastation of war first hand. Despite an appreciation for the notional virtues of war, Churchill was sensitive to war’s gruesome toll and depravities. Long before the Second World War, he wrote “War, which used to be cruel and magnificent, has now become cruel and squalid… Instead of a small number of well-trained professionals championing their country’s cause with ancient weapons and a beautiful intricacy of archaic manoeuvre, sustained at every moment by the applause of their nation, we now have entire populations, including even women and children, pitted against one another in brutish mutual extermination, and only a set of blear-eyed clerks left to add up the butcher’s bill.” (My Early Life, p.79) As the deadliest military conflict in history, WWII left no shortage of war-wounded veterans.
On 10 May 1947 Churchill was presented with the Médaille Militaire, a French military honor, at the Cour des Invalides in Paris. This photograph captures Churchill after the ceremony greeting war-wounded ex-servicemen. Churchill met with disabled veterans numerous times after the war. Just days before this photograph was taken Churchill had entertained the Guinea Pig Club at Chartwell, a group of wounded ex-airmen so named for the experimental nature of their various reconstructive surgeries.
At the time this photograph was taken, Churchill was serving as Leader of the Opposition. Churchill had lost his wartime premiership to the Labour landslide victory in the General Election of July 1945. He would not return to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership until his Conservatives prevailed in the General Election of October 1951. Paul Ramadier (1888-1961), pictured behind and to the left of Churchill in this image, took part in the Resistance and served as France’s first prime minister of the Fourth Republic in 1947.
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 #005237