London: British Official Photograph issued by Photographic News Agencies, Ltd., published by The Daily Telegraph, 1943. Photograph. This original “British Official Photograph” captures British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill presenting a sword from King George VI to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin on 29 November 1943 during their conference in Tehran. This photograph belonged to the Daily Telegraph archives. The gelatin silver image measures approximately 8 x 6 inches (20.3 x 15.2 cm). Deficiencies of clarity and depth doubtless owe to contemporary limitations of wire transmission from Tehran. Condition is very good. Modest curling and creasing do not substantively detract. A significant fragment of the original, typed caption, affixed to the verso, extends below the image. Caption fragments read: “MR. CHURCHILL HANDING OVER TO MARSHAL STALIN THE SWORD OF … GIVEN BY THE KING TO “THE STEEL-HEARTED CITIZENS… AD”… EME LEFT IS MR. EDEN, AND, FACING CAMER…” The photograph verso features ink stamps and holograph notation in pencil. A “BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH” stamp is prominent in the verso center with a hand-written number of “BM30861”. A Daily Telegraph Art Department stamp indicates that the image was published on “8 DEC 1943”. This photo is housed in a removable, archival mylar sleeve within a rigid, crimson cloth folder.
The first of its kind, the “Big Three” conference in Tehran (codenamed “Eureka") was one of only two among British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. It was held from 28 November to 1 December 1943. Churchill christened the meeting – not entirely hyperbolically - as probably ‘the greatest concentration of worldly power that had ever been seen in the history of mankind’. Concentration did not mean harmony. The slightly infamous moment of the sword presentation exemplifies Churchill’s difficulties in fruitfully engaging Stalin. At 3:30 PM on 29 November, “Churchill and the British delegation crossed into the Russian compound for a short ceremony, the handing over by Churchill to Stalin of the specially made Sword of Stalingrad. Inscribed on the blade of the sword, in English and Russian, were the words: ‘To the steel-hearted citizens of Stalingrad, the gift of King George VI, in token of the homage of the British people.’” (Gilbert, Vol. VII, pp.577-8)
After a short speech, Churchill handed the sword to Stalin – the moment captured here. Stalin “kissed the scabbard and handed it to [Marshal] Voroshilov”. The sword “slipped out of the scabbard” and fell to the floor, the pommel reportedly hitting Voroshilov on the toe. Awkwardness began even before they arrived in Tehran. “At Stalin’s insistence, the American delegation were housed in a building in the grounds of the Soviet Embassy” – supposedly to avoid an assassination plot uncovered by the Soviets. Churchill proposed that Roosevelt stay at the British Legation, “but his suggestion had been ignored.” (Gilbert, VII, p.568) Moreover, FDR and Stalin had their first meeting without Churchill – only hours before this sword was presented. The President’s advisor, Harry Hopkins, explained that FDR wanted to assure Stalin “that he was anxious to relieve the pressure on the Russian front by invading France” - this, of course, distancing FDR from Churchill’s hopes of a more vigorous Mediterranean strategy. Roosevelt continued to meet privately with Stalin, but avoided meeting with Churchill privately so as not to arouse Stalin’s suspicion. Churchill, meanwhile, sought to mitigate divergences by meeting privately with Stalin. Churchill would sum up the conference to his wife, Clementine, thus: “Atmosphere most cordial but triangular problems difficult” (Roberts, Walking with Destiny, p.806) Together with the second WSC-FDR-Stalin Conference at Yalta in the Crimea from 4-11 February 1945, Tehran proved a defining event of the 20th Century, shaping not only Allied war strategy, but also the postwar world, and drawing the battle lines of the long Cold War to come. Item #005564