London: Planet News Ltd., 9 December 1958. Photograph. This original press photograph shows Sir Winston S. Churchill smoking a cigar with his hearing aid prominently visible. This image measures 8.125 x 10 in (20.6 x 25.4 cm) on matte photo paper. Condition is good plus. The paper is clean with a crease to the upper left corner, a closed tear to the left edge, and some lights scuffing visible only under racking light. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Planet News Ltd.”, a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph from December 1958 and a typed caption. The original caption is titled: “HEARING-AID FOR SIR WINSTON.” and reads “LONDON: The Grand Old Man, Sir Winston Churchill, bowing to the stresses of old age, now wears a hearing-aid. He is seen leaving No. 10 Downing St. today after he had lunched with his old colleague Harold Macmillan. Lady Churchill was with them, but she left early. The caption is dated “December 9th 1958”.
Churchill does not seem to have been eager for his hearing loss to be made public; images of Churchill wearing a hearing aid are unusual. Churchill’s primary physician, Lord Moran, whose diaries were later published, first notes Churchill’s hearing loss in late 1944. Following Churchill’s second election to Prime Minister in 1951, Lord Moran wrote, “The election has played the devil with Winston’s hearing; his deafness has been much worse during the past fortnight.” (Churchill, taken from the diaries of Lord Moran, p. 372) Churchill was first fitted for a hearing device in 1952. As is so often the case with Churchill, the story is not without drama. Initially, Churchill’s hearing aids were made by an electronics company owned by Russian émigré Alexander Poliakoff who would visit Churchill at 10 Downing Street to ensure the device was properly working. In 1953 the Poliakoff contract was abruptly terminated due to MI5 concerns that the Soviets could place a bug on the Prime Minister through his hearing aid.
This press photo once belonged to The Daily Telegraph’s working archive. 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, including 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.
This original press photograph was taken in the twilight of Churchill’s remarkable life and career. Winston S. Churchill was 80 years old when he resigned his second and final premiership on 5 April 1955. He would be succeeded in the premiership by Anthony Eden, who was in turn succeeded by Harold Macmillan in January 1957. Both Eden and Macmillan had served in the Cabinet during both of Churchill’s premierships. During the last decade of his long life, Churchill passed "into a living national memorial" of the time he had lived and the Nation, Empire, and free world he had served. The day after Churchill died, on 25 January 1965, the Queen sent a message to Parliament announcing: "Confident in the support of Parliament for the due acknowledgement of our debt of gratitude and in thanksgiving for the life and example of a national hero" and concluded "I have directed that Sir Winston's body shall lie in State in Westminster Hall and that thereafter the funeral service shall be held in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.” Churchill's state funeral was attended by the Queen herself, other members of the royal family, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and representatives of 112 countries. It was the first time in a century that a British monarch attended a commoner’s funeral. Item #005387