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Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun, 1940

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Winston Churchill with a Tommy GunA snapshot of Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun was quite popular among both British and Germans propaganda posters.

A morale booster

Winston Churchill was a tough guy during his young years and during his Prime-Minister cadence (at least, the first one). So, he was an actual leader of the UK when he took a trip across the country in the summer of 1940. Churchill aimed to maintain morale in the military units. He wanted to show the servicemen, and the civilian population, that the words he said in the House of Commons on June 4 of the same 1940 were not demagoguery.

Read more: All Pulitzer Winning Photos (1942-1967)

As you may remember Winston Churchill said: “We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and the streets. We will never give up!” Maybe here’s why we have a picture of Winston Churchill among the Top 100 most influential photos of all the time.

It was a great speech, and Prime-Minister was looking for visual support of his words. He found one during the inspection of the port of Hartlepool. Winston Churchill picked up the legendary Tommy Gun and grinned into the lens.

Winston Churchill aims his Tommy Gun, 1940

Winston Churchill aims his Tommy Gun, 1940

Churchill liked to pose with weapons

Winston Churchill liked his photos with weapons during WW2

Why Winston Churchill picked Tommy Gun 

The choice of weapon is not accidental. Winston Churchill perfectly knew that the British army bought thousands of Tommy Guns from the US. (However, brits discovered that the submachine gun is difficult to handle and weighs a lot, they rushed to exchange it for something more manageable.) The picture of Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun immediately spread across the UK. It said: Look, even our leader took up arms! It soon became apparent that outside the country, the photo is no less popular…

The British leader and the Nazi propaganda

The image of Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun in Nazi propaganda

How the Nazi used the photo of Winston Churchill

 Joseph Goebbels was the head of the NSDAP propaganda department during WW2. He liked the photo of Winston Churchill with a Tommy Gun so much that he decided to squeeze everything out of it. He removed the unnecessary background (in this case, the soldiers on the sides of the prime minister). Then Photoshoppers framed the picture in an American manner and added: “WANTED. For incitement to murder.”

The calculation was perfect. Churchill looked like a drunken American gangster with a weapon in his hands. He looked like a real outlaw. 

Another version of anti-Churchill used just one-word ‘Scharfschütze.’ It means ‘sniper.’

Nazi distributed this photo of the “gangster” in Germany and the Axis countries. They also dropped copies over the territory of Great Britain during the Battle of Britain. The imported prints had the following text: “The gangster you see here is pushing you to participate in the war with women, children and the rest of the civilian population in the lead roles. This is an illegal massacre. The Hague Convention prohibits it, and we will stop it with wartime methods. Save at least your own family from her horrors!”


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2 years ago

The second picture looks like a Sten gun.

Andrew Piper
Reply to  D B
2 years ago

Correct. It seems like Churchill picked random guns for photos in different cities.

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