Monday, 16 August 2010

The Greatest Half-Briton And Two Wonderful Photographs

Dispute might rage over whether Nelson, Wellington or Churchill is the greatest Briton. I can see the force of the arguments for each of them: Nelson's smashing blow at Trafalgar; Wellington (and his allies) finishing Napoleon off at Waterloo; Churchill steeling a bombarded nation against amazing odds. But Churchill was half American and it is (at least partly), because of that fact, that he got through to the American people and induced them to turn the tide of opinion in favour of the New World coming to the rescue of the Old, at a crucial moment. That, and two wonderful photographs, which should stand in any gallery of the World's most influential art. The first is of St Paul's Cathedral, inviolate in a swirl of smoke (taken by Herbert Mason, on the roof of the former Daily Mail building in Fleet Street, on the night of 29th December 1940; front page picture, in The Daily Mail, on New Year's Eve 1940); the second is of three year old Eileen Dunne, blitzed, bandaged and stoical, with her teddy bear, in a hospital in the North of England in 1940 (by Cecil Beaton).

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