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How today’s censors decided Churchill could do without his cigar

The face is instantly familiar, the two-fingered salute unmistakable.

But are these actually the same photograph of Sir Winston Churchill?

In the original photograph the war leader has his cigar gripped firmly in the corner of his mouth.

But in the other image - currently greeting visitors to a London museum - his favourite smoke has been digitally extinguished.

Chercil whit cigarChercil whitout cigarUniform, victory salute and cigar: Winston Churchill in the 1940s and now without his trademark smoke

It seems the man who steered Britain through the most dangerous period of its recent history may have fallen victim to the modern curse of political correctness.

Last night the question of who removed the cigar and when was something of a mystery.

The Winston Churchill’s Britain At War Experience, in South-East London, confessed to being astonished to discover that the image may have been doctored.

picture of Churchill At War Experience in South-East London

The Britain At War Experience in South-East London with the airbrushed picture of Churchill above the entrance

Which is a little embarrassing for the staff at the charitable trust, because the photograph features on a giant poster hanging above the museum’s main door.

So just who did pinch the great man’s Havana?

It wasn’t the anti-smoking lobby, which has had no known contact with the museum; it certainly wasn’t Churchill’s family - his grandson Nicholas Soames said ‘it doesn’t matter one way or the other’; and it wasn’t the museum itself - in fact it’s got wartime posters advertising cigarettes on the walls.

But intriguingly the museum, which gives all profits to charity, declined to name who put together the display and, crucially, who enlarged the image for the poster.

Museum manager John Welsh was astonished to be told the image was missing one vital ingredient.
Pugh

‘We’ve got all sorts of images in the museum, some with cigars and some without,’ he said. ‘We’ve even got war-time adverts for cigarettes in the lift down to the air raid shelter, so we wouldn’t have asked for there to be no cigar.’

Museum owner Don Robinson, who handed the museum to a charitable trust 20 years ago, was equally surprised.

‘If we’d known we would have said “no it stays as it is”. Everything we do we try to do accurately and the cigar symbolises Churchill.’

Mr Robinson insisted the person who designed the posters would not have removed the cigar and said he would like to get to the bottom of the mystery too.

The original picture was taken in 1948 when Churchill was opening the new HQ of 615 County of Surrey Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force of which he was commodore.

The altered image was spotted by museum visitor David McAdam.

He said: ‘I pointed out this crude alteration to a museum steward who said she hadn’t noticed the change before, nor had anyone else pointed it out.

‘Viewing the now disfigured image reveals just how unhinged the vociferous anti-smoking lobby has become. So much for the notion that only communist tyrants airbrushed history.’

Allen Packwood, of Churchill Archives Centre, said he had never known of the leader’s cigar being airbrushed out before.

‘The cigar is part of what makes Churchill an iconic figure and of course it was very much part of his image as war leader - it went hand in hand with his victory salute and the uniforms he wore.

‘What’s politically correct for 2010 was not politically correct for 1940.’

Churchill is not the first figure to fall foul of such meddling.

A much-reproduced photograph of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel posing against the backdrop of the huge launching chains of his ship the SS Great Eastern in 1857 shows him smoking a cigar.

However, in a copy which has been used on the front of a school textbook, the cigar was airbrushed out to avoid ‘offence’.

By Beth Hale
Dailymail, 15th June 2010

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2 comments to How today’s censors decided Churchill could do without his cigar

  • Downwind

    Vandalism….can’t think of anything better to describe this attempt to re-write history. Who did it? Why hasn’t he/she come forward? Crawl out of your ditch wherever you are and be prepared to defend yourself. ‘Make my Day’………as the man said

  • Emma

    This is rediculous. Churchill smoked cigars - FACT! Why do we have to play with history like this? Who are we trying to protect? Do we think kids are going to take up smoking cigars because some old guy who has been dead for years did smoke? What kids need is education, the reason why smoking is dangerous and an explanation for why it was so popular in the past. After all, kids aren’t going to start smoking because of seeing a poster with someone smoking. They are going to start smoking because they want to rebel a bit.

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