London: British Official Photograph published by The Daily Telegraph, 11 May 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, accompanied by his daughter, Mary, making a toast to the Soviet Union at the Soviet Embassy in London on 9 May 1945, the day after VE Day. The gelatin silver print on heavy matte photo paper measures 6 x 8 in (15.3 x 20.3 x cm). Condition is very good, the paper crisp, clean, and free of scratches with only very minor edge wear and slightly bumped corners. What appear to be some paper fibers adhere to the surface at the left side of the image and under Churchill’s upraised arm. This press photo was once a part of the working archives of The Daily Telegraph.
The verso bears a copyright stamp obscured by the pasted-on typed caption, a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated “11 MAY 1945”, and a typed caption. The photograph is identified as “BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH CROWN COPYRIGHT RESERVED”. The caption is titled "MR CHURCHILL VISITS SOVIET EMBASSY” and reads “On May 9th, the Prime Minister visited the Soviet Embassy at Kensington Palace Gardens, where he and the Soviet Ambassador M. Gusev, toasted the Soviet Union, the British Empire and Marshal Stalin in Russian champagne. Junior Commander Mary Churchill was with her father.”
The 8th of May 1945 was a public holiday in Britain. The previous day, General Alfred Jodl and Admiral Doenitz signed Germany’s unconditional surrender at Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims; the war officially ended at midnight on 8 May. Alliance with the Soviet Union had been dictated by survival and necessity rather than kindred ideologies and perspectives. Churchill had long been unreservedly anti-communist and wartime alliance was set against profligate Soviet duplicity, bracketed by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the pre and post-victory Soviet grab for Eastern European territory. The month before this image was captured, Churchill warned those attending a 3 April 1945 War Cabinet, “Relations with Russia, which had offered such fair promise at the Crimea Conference, had grown less cordial during the ensuing weeks… It was by no means clear that we could count on Russia as a beneficent influence in Europe, or as a willing partner in maintaining the peace of the world. Yet at the end of the war, Russia would be left in a position of preponderant power and influence throughout the whole of Europe.” (Gilbert, VII, p. 1278)
Despite Churchill’s substantial concerns and mistrust, Clementine Churchill was in Moscow on a humanitarian trip associated with her Red Cross Aid to Russia Fund. Churchill wrote the speech she broadcast to the Russian people on 8 May: “It is my firm belief that on the friendship and understanding between the British and Russian peoples depends the future of mankind.” (Gilbert, VII, p. 1350)
On the afternoon of 9 May Churchill visited the Allied Embassies in London accompanied by his daughter, Mary. His Private Office noted “At the Russian Embassy, the Prime Minister made a short speech and toasts were drunk. At the other Embassies the arrangements were less formal but equally cordial.” (Gilbert, VIII, p.3) The strikingly grim faces of both the Soviet Ambassador and Churchill’s daughter, Mary, seem to presage the long Cold War to come. Less than a year later, on 5 March 1946, Churchill famously warned that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”
Baroness Mary Soames, nee Mary Spencer-Churchill (1922-2014), was the youngest of Winston and Clementine's five children. During the Second World War, Mary joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, serving in anti-aircraft batteries. Later in the war, Mary accompanied her father on several journeys abroad, including the Potsdam summit with Truman and Stalin. Fyodor Gusev (1905-1987) was Soviet Ambassador to Britain from 1943-1946. He had previously served as Ambassador to Canada and after the war served as the Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was a member of the Soviet delegations to both the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. Item #005265