Churchill and Tommy Gun

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.  🙂

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