An original wartime press photograph of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill delivering a campaign speech from a rooftop on 25 June 1945, preparing for the General Election that ended his wartime premiership
London: The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, 25 June 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 25 June 1945, standing on a rooftop as he delivers a campaign speech for the 1945 General Election that ended his wartime premiership. The gelatin silver print on glossy photo paper measures 8.5 x 6.625 in (21.6 x 16.8 cm). Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp and clean with some edge wear, creasing, soiling, and loss (all confined to the generous margins) and light scuffing visible only under raking light. This press photo once belonged to the working archive of The Daily Telegraph. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post”, a received stamp of the Daily Telegraph dated 25 JUN 1945, and a handwritten notation reading “Mr Churchill speaking at High Wycombe on behalf of the Conservative Candidates”.
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 seen standing on the roof of the Red Lion Hotel in High Wycombe (of course beside a statuary lion) as he is about to give a speech broadcast to the crowds by means of a curious, speaker-laden car below him.
He reflected on this tour 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.” (Collected Speeches, Vol VII, p 7197)
Churchill had warred with his own Conservative Party throughout the 1930s. Now, despite his personal popularity, his Conservative Party would cost him the premiership. On 26 July 1945, despite having done so much to win the war, 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 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 #005243