The Churchill Tommy Gun Surfaces After 74 Years

In 1940 the British nation and Commonwealth gained an inspirational leader in Winston Churchill. Churchill is famous for his speeches and visits to the troops, as well as his diplomatic efforts.

Another famous morale booster was the tommy gun photograph that was taken near Hartlepool in July 1940.

Churchill was aware that there were many people who wanted Britain to enter peace negotiations with Germany. He was determined that Britain would continue the fight as he could never trust the Nazi regime.

The photo was intended to show that even the prime minister was ready to fight.

Only 400 Thompson sub machine guns had been received from the United States by the time the photo was taken. The guns were sent all over the British Isles to give the impression they were in plentiful supply.

The general public certainly knew what the tommy gun was from seeing it in gangster films. It was originally designed to give high firepower at close range in the trenches of World War I but was not ready at the time. Its use by American gangsters gave it the aura of a weapon used by ruthless men, an image the British prime minister was likely hoping to convey in his photograph, the Mail Online reports.

German propaganda portrayed Churchill as a gangster by making use of the  photo. Whether this worked is doubtful.

The gun itself is now in the Donnington Collection at the Combined Military Services Museum in Maldon. Clive McPherson is the military historian at the museum and is sure it is the gun from the picture. The gun is one of four remaining that are thought to be from the original batch.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE