London: Fosh & Cross Ltd., 1941. Poster. This original 1941 British wartime propaganda poster features the stirring peroration of Winston Churchill’s speech of 27 January 1940, delivered three and half months before he became prime minister. This speech was broadcast “not only throughout Britain, but also in Canada.” (Gilbert, Vol. VI, pp.143-4)
Measuring 19.75 x 29.75 inches (50.2 x 75.6 cm), the two-color poster features a decorative border of waves and nautical emblems, befitting Churchill’s post as First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of his speech. The quoted closing words of Churchill’s speech read “COME THEN LET US TO THE TASK TO THE BATTLE & THE TOIL” printed in red capitals. Printed in black, the excerpt continues “Each to Our Part Each to Our Station, Fill the Armies, Rule the Air, Pour out the Munitions, Strangle the U-boats, Sweep the Mines, Plough the Land, Build the Ships, Guard the Streets, Succour the Wounded, Uplift the Downcast & Honour the Brave. Let us go forward together in all parts of the Empire, in all parts of this Island. There is not a week, nor a day, nor an hour to be lost.” Directly below the peroration is the attribution “Mr. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister”. The bottom left margin reads, “(F295). Wt. 9097-6,250. Gp. 959. 4/41. Printed in England by Fosh & Cross Ltd.”. This substantiates the wartime resonance of Churchill’s words; the April 1941 print date is 15 months after Churchill delivered his speech and nearly a year into his wartime premiership.
Various sizes and slight text variations of this design were produced, this evidently being the largest. Condition is very good minus. Trivial wear is primarily confined to extremities. Single vertical and horizontal creases ostensibly date from original distribution. This poster has apparently spent life folded; there are no tack holes or tape scars and the print has slightly offset, resulting in a faint, ghosted inversion. The red and black print remains vibrant and the thin, wartime paper shows only light, even toning.
Churchill spent most of the 1930s out of power and out of favor, often at odds with both his Party leadership and prevailing public sentiment. As the Second World War approached, he passed into his mid-sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation. Then, on 3 September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany. That same day Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, the position he held nearly a quarter of a century before during the First World War. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appointment of his rival all but assured Churchill’s ascendance. “Before Churchill could become prime minister he had to look like one… Churchill had the freedom now to make uplifting speeches on life-and-death issues, ones that regularly put any other rivals in the shade with their sense of purpose and humour.” (Roberts, Walking With Destiny, p.471)
Churchill’s words quoted here – words his people needed and Chamberlain could not deliver – help explain why three and a half months later Churchill replaced Chamberlain as wartime Prime Minister. In January 1940, despite the fact that Churchill was but one member of the British Cabinet tasked with but one branch of Britain’s armed forces, “… every facet of war policy seemed to him a part of his legitimate concern…” (Gilbert, Vol. VI, p.166) Churchill’s 27 January 1940 speech underscores the point. It was within the First Lord of the Admiralty’s sphere to speak of the complexities of wartime production and to contextualize reports of British losses. Arguably exceeding his ministerial brief were eloquent comments about the necessity of public and parliamentary criticism and vivid vignettes of Nazi brutalities in Czechoslovakia – which his Prime Minister gave to Hitler for “peace in our time” – and in Poland. In his speech Churchill underscored the consequences of capitulation, the righteousness of his people’s cause, and, with his closing clarion call, his own ability to lead, to inspire, and to prevail. Item #006278