London: Fox Photos Ltd., 11 June 1946. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill and a remarkable convocation of senior British war leaders at the London Victory Celebration on 8 June 1946. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm). Condition is very good plus. The paper is clean, crisp, and free of scratches with sharp corners save the upper left which has a crease in the margins and some light cockling. The verso bears a copyright stamp reading “Fox Photos Ltd.”, a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated 11 JUN 1946, and a typed caption reading “MR. CHURCHILL chats with war Leaders at the Saluting Base before the arrival of the King. From left to right, ADMIRAL LORD MOUNTBATTEN, GENERAL HASTINGS ISMAY, FIELD MARSHAL “JUMBO” WILSON, AIR MARSHAL LORD PORTAL, FIELD MARSHAL LORD ALEXANDER, GENERAL LORD ALANBROOKE, MR. CHURCHILL (standing behind a Rear Admiral) AND ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET LORD CUNNINGHAM. FOX June 8. 46.”
Less than a year earlier, on 26 July 1945, Churchill, the prime architect, had lost his wartime premiership to a landslide General Election victory for the Labour Party. He faced frustration of his postwar plans and more than six years as Leader of the Opposition during the premiership of his former Deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. The London Victory Celebrations of 1946 were part of British Commonwealth, Empire, and Allied victory commemorations. In London there was a military parade and a night time fireworks display. At The Mall stood a saluting stand where the royal family and the leaders of the war were honored. Among them were leaders whose importance exceeds our ability to encapsulate.
Of General Lord Hastings Lionel “Pug” Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay (1887-1965), Churchill said: “We became hand in glove and much more…” (Churchill, The Gathering Storm). Churchill had traveled to North Africa to promote Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis (1891-1969), who repaid Churchill by securing the Allied victory in North Africa, and of whom Churchill would write “Nothing ever disturbed or rattled him, and duty was a full satisfaction in itself, especially if it seemed perilous and hard… this was combined with so gay and easy a manner that the pleasure and honour of his friendship was prized by all those who enjoyed it, among whom I could count myself.” (THoF, p.167). Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke (1883-1963) served as wartime Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, professional head of the army, and Churchill’s foremost wartime military advisor. Admiral of the Fleet Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope (1883-1963) was favorably compared to Nelson for both temperament and Mediterranean mastery, "by common consent" ranked "with the greatest of British admirals”, and earned a reputation for energy, fearlessness, decisiveness, and the ability to both maintain exacting standards and cultivate loyalty of peers and subordinates. (ODNB) Each of the men in this photograph had, at turns and consonant with their respective roles and character, both ably supported and constructively thwarted their Prime Minister. Individually and collectively they bore great responsibility for the victory they were assembled to commemorate.
This press photograph once belonged to the working archive of The Daily Telegraph. 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, with 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 #005597