Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Churchill and Tommy Gun

with 8 comments

The above photograph of Winston Churchill with the Thompson submachine gun was taken during his visit to the coastal defense positions near Hartlepool on 31 July, 1940. The prospects were not looking good for the United Kingdom and her new prime minister. Governments in exile were arriving to London while Home Guard was just being established and ill-prepared; For a month, Hitler had been preparing to invade Britain, and the Luftwaffe had been commencing what would eventually be known as the Battle of Britain. Britain had lost the Channel Islands barely a month before, while it looked as if Russia would join the war from the German side.

The Churchill photograph was timely. It was used to convey Churchill as a war leader. Both sides of the war tried to use this picture for propaganda purposes. The British photoshopped out* two soldiers standing next to Churchill, making him look statesmanlike, determined and menacing. On the other hand, the Germans got hold of the photo, and compared it to those of the gangsters of the American West. The Nazis used this photo in their propaganda leaflets airdropped onto Britain during the Battle of Britain (below).

It was ironic that the British tried to render their prime minister more threatening. Churchill had more military experience than any British Prime Minister since the Duke of Wellington. Although he had been the Prime Minister for only 50 days when this photo was taken, he had been a military man throughout his life. He was a member of the Harrow Rifle Corps while in public school. After failing the entrance exam twice, he was admitted to Sandhurst, and graduated eighth in his class (and leading in tactics and fortifications). He saw action in India and South Africa and served as the minister in all three branches of the military before eventually being selected for the premiership.

* Used in a loose retroactive sense.  :)

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

April 2, 2010 at 1:18 am

8 Responses

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  1. I sincerely doubt bthat the British government photoshopped it.

    Maybe they altered it, faked it, doctored it – but they did not photoshop it.

    Stephen Downes

    April 2, 2010 at 1:51 am

    • No shit sherlock.

      Joe

      April 2, 2010 at 9:42 am

      • Joe handled that perfectly.

        Dan

        October 21, 2010 at 11:52 pm

  2. “Britain had lost the Channel Islands barely a month before, while it looked as if Russia would join the war from the German side.” Russia had already joined the war on the German side by invading Poland on Sept. 17, 1939. Russia and Germany would remain allies for almost another year after this picture was taken.

    TD

    April 3, 2010 at 9:32 pm

  3. It’s really interesting to me that nobody noticed (or maybe didn’t care) , before publication, that you cannot insert or remove a drum magazine in a Thompson with the bolt closed, which it is.

    Ride Fast

    April 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    • Nice catch.

      Maybe he was adjusting it for fit.

      Dan

      October 21, 2010 at 11:52 pm

  4. [...] Churchill and Tommy Gun « Iconic Photos The Churchill photograph was timely. It was used to convey Churchill as a war leader. Both sides of the war tried to use this picture for propaganda purposes. The British photoshopped out two soldiers standing next to Churchill, making him look statesmanlike, determined and menacing. On the other hand, the Germans got hold of the photo, and compared it to those of the gangsters of the American West. The Nazis used this photo in their propaganda leaflets airdropped onto Britain during the Battle of Britain. [...]

  5. […] CARDONA, Gabriel. O mundo durante a guerra: A Batalha da Inglaterra. Coleção 70º Aniversário da 2ª Guerra Mundial (1939-1945): Sangue, Suor e lágrimas: A Inglaterra resiste. São Paulo: Abril Coleções, n. 9, 2009.HOLMES, Alex Selwyn. Churchill and Tommy Gun. […]


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