Copyright Associated Press Wirephoto By Signal Corps Radio, published by the Chicago Tribune, 1944. Photograph. This original wartime press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill with Chief of the Imperial General Staff Field Marshal Alan Brooke on board the destroyer HMS Kelvin crossing the English Channel for Normandy on 12 June 1944, less than a week after D-Day.
The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 8.875 x 6.875 inches (22.5 x 17.5 cm). Condition is very good. The paper shows only light wear and a touch of overall rippling. Art department augmentation is evident in the lines of Churchill’s and Brooke’s facial features and kit, as well as some of the background. Affixed to the verso is an original newspaper clipping of the photograph’s publication. The remaining portion of the caption reads “Prime Minister Churchill with his cigar confers with Gen Alan Brooke on British warship off…” The clipping attributes the image to “Associated Press Wirephoto: By Signal Corps Radio” and is date-stamped “JUN 14 1944”. An ink-stamped “NOTICE” partially obscured by the newspaper clipping stipulates that “This picture is the property of The Associated Press…” The verso also shows pencil notation related to publication. An accompanying document testifies that this print is an original archive photograph of the Chicago Tribune.
On 6 June 1944, the United States, Britain, and their allies launched the largest amphibious invasion in history, Operation Overlord. The landings on Normandy beaches became known as D-Day. Churchill desperately wished to be present with the fleet during the landings, but was checked by his King. By 9 June Churchill was confident enough in the operation’s success that he began to plan crossing the channel into France. Churchill telegrammed Field Marshal Montgomery, “We do not wish in any way to be a burden to you or on your headquarters… We shall bring some sandwiches with us.” Montgomery replied, “Road not (repeat not) 100 per cent safe owing to enemy snipers.” Not realizing that the telegram came directly from Churchill he added, “Essential PM should go only where I take him and you must get away from here in early evening.” (Gilbert, VII, p.802-3)
On 12 June Churchill along with Smuts and Brooke embarked on a British destroyer. A “smiling and confident” Montgomery met them at the beach. They drove by jeep to the headquarters where “Troops rushed the car and surrounded it. Some wanted to shake hands, others wanted to give the Prime Minister a pat on the back. Cries were heard from all sides of ‘Good old Winnie.’ One particularly bright tin-hatted Tommy, battledressed and looking tired and exhausted after days of fighting shouted cheerfully ‘Got any whisky for us?’” (Hull Daily Mail, 13 June 1944) Churchill remembered, “We lunched in a tent looking towards the enemy. The General was in the highest spirits. I asked him…‘What is there then to prevent an incursion of German armour breaking up our luncheon?’ He said he did not think they would come.” (WWII, VI, p.11)
That evening Smuts, Brooke, and Churchill returned on the HMS Kelvin. When the destroyer was within seven thousand yards of the shore Churchill asked Admiral Vian to “have a plug at them ourselves before we go home?” Vian acquiesced and the ship opened fire on the shore for several minutes. This was the only time Churchill, twice First Lord of the Admiralty, was on board a ship firing in combat. The Allies would celebrate their final victory over Germany less than one year later on V-E Day, 8 May 1945.
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. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #006010