London: Published by Evening Standard, 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill during his campaign for the 1945 General Election that would send him out of the office of Prime Minister. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is clean, crisp, and free of scratches with only light wear to the edges and corners and some cockling to the right edge. The verso bears an ink stamp – now only faintly legible - from the Evening Standard and a “RECEIVED” stamp dated “3 JUL 1945”. Fittingly prophetic, Churchill is captured in a moment of anticipation, with his mouth open to receive the cigar he is raising in his right hand.
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’s received date of 3 July 1945 indicates that the image was likely captured towards the end of Churchill’s election tour.
On July 2 and 3 Churchill conducted a two day election tour of the London area during which the Prime Minister was met with both adoring crowds and detractors. Though Churchill had led the nation to victory, the Conservative party’s ability to achieve postwar reconstruction was viewed with growing skepticism. On 3 July Churchill delivered his final campaign speech before a crowd of over 20,000 at a stadium in Walthamstow at which a vehemently hostile faction was present. His 28-minute speech was interrupted throughout by catcalls and booing, as well as by cheers and applause. The environment was stormy enough that Churchill remarked upon the crowd’s participation many times throughout his speech. At the end of his speech he directly called out the opposition, “Where I think the booing party are making such a mistake is dragging all this stuff across the practical tasks we have to fulfil [sic]… They are going to be defeated at this election in a most decisive manner. Their exhibition here shows very clearly the sort of ideas they have of free speech.” (Complete Speeches, Vol VII, p 7203)
The opposite of the outcome predicted by Churchill shortly came to pass. 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. Item #005275