An original wartime "British Official Photograph" featuring U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on Churchill’s 69th birthday, 30 November 1943, at a dinner hosted by Churchill during the “Big Three” Tehran Conference
London: Copyright British Official Photograph issued by Photograph News Agencies, Ltd., published by The Daily Telegraph, 30 November 1943. Photograph. This is an original wartime "British Official Photograph" featuring U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on Churchill’s 69th birthday, 30 November 1943, at a dinner hosted by Churchill during the “Big Three” Tehran Conference. This wartime press photograph belonged to the Daily Telegraph archives. The gelatin silver image measures approximately 6.375 x 5.5 inches (16.19 x 13.97 cm) printed on an 8 x 6 (20.32 x 15.24 cm) inch sheet of heavy matte photo paper. Deficiencies of clarity and depth doubtless owe to contemporary limitations of wire transmission from Tehran.
Condition approaches very good minus. Modest curling and soiling and surface scratches visible under raking light do not substantively detract. A significant fragment of the of the original, typed caption, affixed to the verso, extends below the image. Caption fragments read, “…CONFERENCE. THE THREE ALLIED LEADERS PHOTOGRAPHED…NER PARTY GIVEN BY MR. CHURCHIILL ON HIS… THE PERSIAN…” The photograph verso features a “BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH” ink stamp indicating that it was issued by “PHOTOGRAPHIC NEWS AGENCIES, LTD.”. A second ink stamp of The Daily Telegraph Art Department indicates a published date of “7 DEC 1943”. Additional numerical notation in pencil is found at two corners of the verso. This photo is housed in a removable, archival mylar sleeve within a rigid, crimson cloth folder.
The “Big Three” conference held in Tehran from 28 November to 1 December 1943 was the first of its kind and one of only two among these leaders. 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. 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. 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. On 30 November 1943, Churchill hosted the third dinner of the conference, at which this image was taken. “It was his own birthday dinner: he was sixty-nine.” Earlier that day, in discussion with Stalin, Churchill had commented ‘that truth deserved a bodyguard of lies’. “This phrase was to become the key of a new and most secret operation, ‘Bodyguard’, the deception plans for ‘Overlord’, the Allied invasion at Normandy. The dinner was perhaps a high point of cordiality between Stalin and Churchill; Churchill at one point toasted “I drink to the Proletarian masses.” Stalin reciprocally toasted “I drink to the Conservative Party.” and lingered after Roosevelt and most of the other guests had left. (Gilbert, VII, p.586). Item #005565