By BRIAN KRAPF
Wartime posters were printed on thin paper, intended to be used and withstand nails, tacks, and a variety of weather conditions. Most were taken down and thrown away as they deteriorated or when freshly designed posters were produced to take their place. The poster pictured on the left is one of the most famous Churchill images from the Second World War. To this day, it serves as one of the most visible reminders of Churchill’s wartime leadership and continues to be reproduced on coffee mugs, t-shirts, key rings, postcards, and other tourist novelties. It can also be found on page 2 of each issue of Finest Hour.
Despite its popularity, very few authentic copies have survived, and an original find is quite rare. The poster on the right utilizes the same image but includes its message in Hebrew. It is even rarer than the English version; after an exhaustive search of museums and private collections, I can confirm that this is the only known surviving example. Both posters were printed in 1943. The English version was intended for use in Great Britain. The Hebrew version was intended for use in old Palestine, purportedly as a recruiting tool for the famed Jewish Brigade. While the same background templates were used in production, the messages are distinctly different. The Hebrew version translates as “Victory to Victory—Winston Churchill, the Premiere of Britain.”
As an aside, Churchill was supportive of the formation and actions of the Jewish Brigade. On a side table in his bedroom in the Cabinet War Rooms, adjacent to the desk from which he made many of his BBC broadcasts, there is a trench art smoking set made of a mortar shell mounted on an oak base. It is inscribed to Churchill from the Jewish Brigade, expressing admiration and thanking him for his support.
Like fishermen, collectors always have stories of how they obtained a “big catch,” so I will share mine. This poster appeared in a 2008 Tel-Aviv based auction. The owner, a noted collector of vintage Judaic advertising, political, and mercantile posters had donated his entire collection to charity to raise funds for citizens of Northern Israel injured by mortar attacks in the Gaza War. Upon receiving the auction catalog, I immediately knew the Churchill poster was unique and must be added to my collection. There was one issue to overcome, however; my law office had scheduled its annual beach party the day of the auction closing, and as a partner in the firm, my presence was mandatory. I made arrangements with the Tel-Aviv auctioneer to call me so I could bid, and I did so while standing on a Georgia beach amidst my office staff and other Sunday afternoon beach goers. Thank goodness for mobile phones and their satellite systems!
Brian Krapf formerly served as President of the American Political Items Collectors.