London: The Associated Press Ltd., 1 December 1961. Photograph. This is an original press photo of a smiling woman giving Winston S. Churchill his own famous V sign on his 87th birthday, 30 November 1961, as he leaves his Hyde Park Gate Home to attend a private luncheon at the Savoy Hotel. This image measures 8.125 x 10 in (21 x 25.4 cm) on glossy photo paper. Condition is very good. The image is clean with some minor bruising to the corners, red ink staining to the upper margin on the recto and verso, and light scuffing visible only under raking light. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “The Associated Press Ltd.”, a purple published stamp of The Daily Telegraph from 1 December 1961, a typed caption, and a clipping of the caption as it was published in the newspaper. The original typed caption is titled “Happy Birthday to you, Sir.” And reads: “An old lady gives Sir Winston Churchill (at right) his own famous V-sign, as he leaves his Hyde Park Gate, London, residence, hotel for a private luncheon with a few friends, on the occasion of his 87th birthday. After the luncheon the old wartime leader plans to go to the House of Commons to attend a session there.”
Substantive gifts accompanied the day. Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, records that Churchill’s birthday gifts included “a case of Pol Roger champagne, 1943, from Madame Pol Roger, brandy from Harold Macmillan, young Winston and his mother Pamela, Jock and Meg Colville, Edwina and Piers Dixon, and Celia and Julian Sandys… violets from Lady Violet Bonham Carter” and “cigars from Onassis.” (Vol. VIII, p. 1331) Nonetheless, we can surmise that accolades, like the anonymous tribute recorded in this photograph, may have been the most gratifying. Sir Winston S. Churchill was 80 years old when he resigned his second and final premiership on 5 April 1955.
For 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.
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. Item #005400