London: Unknown, 5 July 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures wartime Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 4 July 1945 drinking a pint of beer on stage during an appearance in support of his son-in-law’s campaign for the 1945 General Election – the election that ended Churchill’s wartime premiership three weeks after this image was captured. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 10 x 11.5 in (25.4 x 29 cm). Condition is good plus. There is some light edge wear, bruising to the corners, and three short closed tears, confined to the top and bottom margins. This press photo once belonged to a newspaper’s working archive and features their art department’s hand-applied retouching to Churchill, the buildings, and the crowd. The verso bears 5 date stamps of 5 JUL 1945, handwritten printing notations, and a clipping of the caption as it was printed in the newspaper reading, “The Man with a Pint of Beer is Mr. Churchill – before beginning his speech at Norwood-road last night.” The handwritten notes indicate that the image was published on “Page One”.
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 photo was taken on 4 July, the day before the polls opened.
Churchill was making an appearance in support of his son-in-law, Duncan Sandys (note the large “STICK TO ‘SANDYS’” banners behind the stage). A 5 July article from the Aberdeen Press and Journal captured the moment, recording Churchill’s characteristic wit and charm before an audience. “In Norwood Mr Churchill was greeted by his son-in-law, Mr Duncan Sandys, Minister of Works, and a huge crowd. Mr Churchill’s first action on mounting the platform was to drink a pint of beer which was waiting for him. There were loud cheers and few boos when Mr Churchill exhorted the crowd to vote for Mr Sandys, who would ‘work night and day to give them houses.’ On one occasion there was a loud laugh when Mr Churchill, making a sweeping gesture, struck one of the candidates standing near him. He added to the laughter when he commented with a broad smile: ‘It would be an awkward business if I knocked one of the candidates out on the eve of the poll.’
The Prime Minister returned home by way of Westminster Bridge. In Parliament Square some thousands of people were waiting and ran behind his car to No. 1 Storey’s Gate where he got out. Mr Churchill looked at the cheering people and picked up the microphone for a final word - ‘Get up early to-morrow and vote the right way,’ he said. He waved his hands, still holding a cigar, and entered the building with a final smile.” For both Sandys and Churchill the vote did not go the “right way”. Sandys lost his seat. Churchill retained his own seat with a commanding majority, but lost his premiership owing to a national Labour landslide.
Having done so much to win the war, Churchill resigned his premiership on 26 July 1945. 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 (1951-1955). Sandys returned to Parliament in 1950, serving successively in the Cabinets of Prime Ministers Churchill, Eden, and Macmillan. Item #005358