England: U.S. Army Photograph, 1944. Photograph. This original U.S. Army Second World War photograph captures a remarkable convocation of British civilian leadership, along with the U.S. Supreme Allied Expeditionary Force Commander, at a train station during a British military inspection tour on 12 May 1944, less than a month before D-Day. Captured, from left to right, are Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser, General Dwight Eisenhower, Rhodesian Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins, and South African Prime Minister General Jan Smuts.
The gelatin silver print on heavy glossy photo paper measures 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm). Condition is very good, the image clean and crisp, marred only by an unobtrusive crease and minor scuffing across the jawlines of Smuts and Huggins. The photograph is archivally framed in black, beveled-edge walnut measuring 15.25 x 13.25 inches (38.7 x 33.7 cm), set beneath a 2.25 inch (5.72 cm) margin of white mat and glazed with UV-filtering acrylic. The frame’s verso is matted and mylar-glazed to expose the two, original, lengthy U.S. Army stamps on the verso of the photograph.
An extensive original ink-stamped caption at the upper left of the verso is partially faded, particularly the first few lines. The legible portions read: “… MINISTERS AT…STATION, COUNTY KENT, ENGLAND. Left to right: Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada; Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England; Peter Frazer [sic], Prime Minister of New Zealand; General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Expeditionary Force Commander; Godfrey Huggins, Prime Minister of Rhodesia; and General Jan Smuts, Prime Minister of South Africa. General Eisenhower accompanied Churchill on a tour of British Army field installations. 12 May 1944”
An additional ink stamp at the bottom center of the verso specifies “PLEASE CREDIT U.S. ARMY PHOTOGRAPH” and reads “Publication of this photograph is not authorized unless approved for release by a Public Information office at any Army Activity or Installation and so noted hereon. Its use in Commercial Advertisement must be approved by the Public Information Division, office of the Chief of Information, Department of the Army, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20310”
Churchill had welcomed the Dominion Prime Ministers to London on 1 May for the start of a two-week conference. In their opening meeting at 10 Downing Street he spoke to the Dominion Prime Ministers about the “great operation about to be launched” across the Channel. (Gilbert, Vol. VII, p.763) “On May 12, as the Allied troops in Italy met fierce German opposition, Churchill left London with Smuts, Mackenzie King, and Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, for a tour of inspection of troops preparing for ‘Overlord’. At Lydd… they were joined by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Peter Fraser. That night, still on his train, Churchill was joined for dinner by Eisenhower… On May 13, Churchill, still in his train, returned to the south coast, to Cosham, where he and his guests were taken on a tour of inspection of Spithead and in Southampton Water of naval preparation for ‘Overlord’. Returning through London, where Smuts, Mackenzie King, Fraser, and Huggins left the train, Churchill continued by train to Chequers.” (Gilbert, Vol. VII, pp.769-71)
Operation Overlord commenced on 6 June 1944, when the United States, Britain, and their WWII allies, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, launched the largest amphibious invasion in history. Allied landings on the beaches at Normandy, France began the campaign that ended with Germany’s unconditional surrender. The Allies celebrated their final victory over Germany less than one year later on V-E Day, 8 May 1945. Item #006135