Winston … a decorative life in colour!

There is a great old black and white portrait photograph of a young Winston Churchill when he was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty at the beginning of World War 1. It’s a rare instance were Churchill is displaying his medal set for the purposes of underpinning his appointment to the senior service – the Royal Navy, and for a young appointment he has at this stage an incredible and very remarkable set of medals and combat experience – having been in action in Cuba, India, Sudan and South Africa – and this is before he spent time as a Colonel in the bloody trenches of the western front in World War 1, in all, by way of medals Winston Churchill experienced first hand no fewer than 6 wars, including the two world wars.

The medals and clasps displayed in the banner image are:

King George V Coronation Medal, UK, (1911)

The India Medal, UK, (1898) with (Clasp: Punjab Frontier).

The Queen’s Sudan Medal UK, (1899).

The Queen’s South Africa Medal, UK,(1901) with (6 clasps: Diamond Hill, Johannesburg, Relief of Ladysmith, Orange Free State, Tugela Heights, Cape Colony).

Cross of the Order of Military Merit, Red Ribbon (War Service), Spain (1895).

Khedive’s Sudan Medal (clap: Khartoum), Egypt 1899.

What many people miss from this photograph is the ‘colour’ and especially the colourful array of medal ribbons as they would have looked. So, let’s get this picture colourised, and a challenge to Jenny Bosch was laid down – Jenny B Colourised Photos is particularly good at capturing Boer War era photographs and colourising them – so the ideal candidate for the job. I sent her the medals he achieved and their ribbon colours and voila!

Winston Churchill pictured here in his late 30’s.

What a lot of people who colourise historic photographs miss, and they miss it by a mile in the case of Churchill, are things like hair and eye colour. They tend to depict Churchill with either dark or greying hair and moody dark eyes. Most people don’t know that Churchill was very unique in his looks – he had a mop of red hair which lasted well into his middle age, and the easiest way to see this ‘copper’ top is in fine art portraits of him commissioned at the time. His crop of red hair even earned him the nickname “Copperknob” at school.

Also, what is unique and incredibly striking about Churchill is that in addition to his red hair he had piercing blue eyes – another trick lost to any modern colouriser of his photographs – not so Jenny, she got the brief and got it right.

On this portrait, some queried how come Winston Churchill has as many a 6 Boer War ‘battle’ clasps on his Queen’s South Africa Medal – he was just a journalist right? Wrong, after his famous escape from Boer captivity, he joined Buller’s forces in Natal, re-instating his commission as a subaltern in the South African Light Horse, a mounted infantry regiment – his role as a agreed would be scouting and reconnaissance and at the same time he would act as an embedded journalist. If you think he stood back from danger think again, on one occasion his horse was shot out from under him – he took part in the Battle at Spionkop, was in the column that liberated Ladysmith and thereafter was involved in just about everything right up to the fall of Pretoria, were he is one of the first British officers to enter the city.

What I like about Churchill whenever a portrait like this is taken is his supreme sense of invincibility and arrogance, and it tends to show – to give you an idea of what he was like as a younger man, in 1898 whilst campaigning in India, he rode up to the skirmish line in full sight whilst everyone else took cover. As arrogant as ever, and there is no doubt he actually enjoyed the danger, he said of it in a letter to Lady Randolph (his American Mother) “Bullets are not worth considering. Besides I am so conceited I do not believe the Gods would create so potent a being as myself for so prosaic an ending.” To say he was a narcissist would be an understatement .. like he cared.

On Churchill’s decorations – he would go on to becoming one of the most decorated people in history, earning no more than 37 – yup 37 medals and decorations. One of the few occasions were he is seen with his more fuller rack of medals is the Victory celebration parade in London after WW2 where he takes the salute on the podium alongside his old friend Field Marshal Jan Smuts (whose medal array is no slouch either – as he is the most decorated South African in history).

Victory Day Parade 1946 – left to right: Clement Attlee (the new Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1946), Sir Winston Churchill, MacKenzie King the Prime Minister of Canada and Field Marshal Jan Smuts taking the salute, in the background the Duchess of Kent with her two children.

In all Sir Winston Churchill held the following decorations and medals: in the ‘Order of Precedence’:

  1. Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, UK, appointed 24 Apr 53, installed 14 Jun 54.
  2. Order of Merit, UK, appointed 1 Jan 46, installed 8 Jan 46.
  3. Order of the Companions of Honour, UK, appointed 19 Oct 22, invested 16 Jun 23.
  4. India Medal, 1895 (clasp: Punjab Frontier 1897-98), UK, authorised 10 Dec 1898.
  5. Queen’s Sudan Medal 1896-98, UK, authorised 27 Mar 1899.
  6. Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 (clasps: Diamond Hill, Johannesburg, Relief of Ladysmith, Orange Free State, Tugela Heights, Cape Colony), UK, authorised 15 Jul 1901.
  7. 1914-1915 Star, UK, authorised 10 Oct19.
  8. British War Medal 1914-1918, UK, authorised 13 Oct19.
  9. Victory Medal, UK, authorised 4 Jun 20.
  10. 1939-1945 Star, UK, authorised 9 Oct 45.
  11. Africa Star, UK, authorised 9 Oct 45.
  12. Italy Star, UK, authorised 2 Aug 45.
  13. France and Germany Star, UK, authorised 9 Oct 45.
  14. Defence Medal 1939-45, UK, authorised 9 Oct 45.
  15. War Medal 1939-45, UK, authorised 11 Dec 46.
  16. King George V Coronation Medal, UK, 1911.
  17. King George V Silver Jubilee Medal, UK, 1935.
  18. King George VI Coronation Medal, UK, 1937.
  19. Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal, UK, 1953.
  20. Territorial Decoration (King George V), UK, 31 Oct 24.
  21. Cross of the Order of Military Merit, Red Ribbon, First Class, Spain, granted 6 Dec 1895, ratified 25 Jan 1896.
  22. Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold with Palm, Belgium, 15 Nov 45.
  23. Knight Grand Cross, Order of the Lion of the Netherlands, Holland, May 1946.
  24. Grand Cross, Order of the Oaken Crown, Luxembourg, 14 Jul 46.
  25. Grand Cross with Chain, Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, Norway, 11 May 48.
  26. Order of the Elephant, Denmark, 9 Oct 50.
  27. Order of Liberation, France, awarded 6 Nov 58.
  28. Most Refulgent Order of the Star of Nepal, First Class, Nepal, 29 Jun 61.
  29. Grand Sash of the High Order of Sayyid Mohammed bin Ali el Senoussi, Kingdom of Libya, awarded 14 Apr 62.
  30. Army Distinguished Service Medal, United States, authorised 10 May 19, awarded 16 Jul 19.
  31. War Cross with Palm, Belgium, 15 Nov 45.
  32. Military Medal 1940-45, Luxembourg, 14 Jul4 6.
  33. Military Medal, France, 8 May 47.
  34. War Cross with palm, France, 8 May 47.
  35. Cuban Campaign Medal, 1895-98, Spain, awarded 1914.
  36. Khedive’s Sudan Medal (clasp: Khartoum), Egypt, 1899.
  37. King Christian X’s Liberty Medal, Denmark, 10 Sep 46.

Now, I’m sure that someone, somewhere is going to point out that Churchill suffered depression, was nocturnal, drank a lot of alcohol, a man who spoke to ghosts, used a sword to slay combatants, shelled the French fleet sleeping in peace, called Gandhi a “half naked fakir” and took a rather heavy hand to dealing with rebellious marxist Irish Republicans .. and they could be right. But seriously, not many historic figures in the 20th century can hold a candle to him – unlike many of his contemporaries he held a deep and on-going respect for the Boer nation and let’s face it, without him, and him alone, the current European Union would be modelled on Hitler’s ideals of a Nazi 3rd Reich.

For some more great colourised images of ‘young’ Winston Churchill by Jenny B, have a look at the following:

Written and researched by Peter Dickens – all colourised images with great thanks and much appreciation to Jennifer Bosch, the link to her page as follows:

3 thoughts on “Winston … a decorative life in colour!

  1. Mr Dickens thanks for this item. I must take you to task in regard to WSC. He suffered from depression but was not a depressive, professionally two totally different diagnosis. Secondly there is ZERO evidence to state that he was a alcoholic, as with many of his era he drank alcohol, due to the dangers of drinking water before modern hygienic systems took over. He liked alcohol, but alcohol never took him over, frequently seen with a whiskey glass, it a tot of whiskey for the taste and a lot of soda water, frequently topped up.

    In regard to the rebellion in Ireland (which was not nation-wide, he stopped those who wished to assume total martial law. Because of his measures the IRA hierarchy admitted that it was close to destruction before the Peace Treaty. It must be remembered it a Marxist organisation, with the release of items members it started the Civil War, which caused more damage, carnage and death than the Rebellion.

    WSC had a soft spot for South Africans in general, and it was because of his activities that the 6th SA Armoured Division went to fight in Italy. There was much dissertation within the political and military sides of the Commonwealth Countries to allow The Union to have a active role in the War.

    Part of WSC history in South Africa is rarely brought up. This relating to :
    MONTMORENCY’S SCOUTS, or de Monmorency’s Scouts, with Montmorency’s Cavalry Division Scouts probably the original title, modern writers incorrectly record the corps as “Montgomery Scouts”. Raised in the Eastern Cape by Capt, The Honourable R.H.L.J. de Montmorency, VC, 21st Lancers, who had been adjutant of 1st Brabant’s Horse, December 1899, initially just four in total, 100 attested, Private soldiers ranked as ‘Scouts’. His soldier servant, Thomas Byrne, also an Omdurman VC. It did very fine work in the Stormberg fighting in 1899, and in the next months. Montmorency’s death in action, Dordrecht near Stormberg on 23rd February 1900, just before the advance in the OFS was a great loss. Assuming command Capt A.McNeill, 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, who had been aide-de-camp to General Gatacre, and had raised McNeill’s Scouts which amalgamated into Montmorency’s. …………………….. Their badge a skull and crossbones (taken from the 21st Lancers), green hatband with an ostrich feather. (Times History of the War in South Africa, Vols II, III and IV, especially III, p.119. Flash, etc., Murray.) The corps received two DSO, two DCM and four Mentions. Some 20 QSA Medals issued named “Montmorency’s Scouts.”.
    NOTES : Its main claim to fame lies in one Trooper Clement Roberts, he in a small patrol at Dewetsdorp, April 1900, accompanied by one Winston Spencer Churchill, surprised by a large Boer force whilst dismounted crossing a wire fence. Roberts rode back and rescued the dismounted Churchill If he had not, Churchill would have undoubtedly been either killed on the spot, or later as the Transvaal Government had after his previous escape from their prison declared that he would be executed “when” recaptured. Without Churchill as its 1940-45 wartime Prime Minister, it is quite possible that Britain would have surrendered in 1940. Churchill immediately afterwards gave Roberts a cheque for the then substantial sum of ten pounds (2021 purchasing power just under 800 pounds)(2), not for rescuing him, but for the death of Roberts personal horse, which he reared since its birth. He had a soft spot for the corps as he had liked de Montmorency and Byrne, having had fought alongside them out of the trap set for the 21st Lancers by the Madists at Omdurman. McNeill, provided Churchill with sketches, with which to illustrate his “River War”. SANDYS Celia. Churchill Wanted Dead or Alive. Harper Collins, London, 1999.
    2. Farmer of Berkley East, was awarded the DCM, sold 2nd July, 2010, Noonon Mayfair, London, for 32,000 pounds. DCM, E.VII.R. (Cpl. C. Roberts. Montmorency’s Scouts) official correction to unit having been gazetted as ‘Montgomery’s Scouts’; QSA clasps, CC, O FS, Tvl (Cpl. C. Roberts. Montmorency’s Scts.); KSA two clasps (1104 Serjt. C. R. Roberts. Frontier L.H.); BWM, Bilingual Victory Medal (1A2nd C./W.O. C. R. Roberts, 3rd S.A.I.). (This from my latest book).

    TO ADD TO THIS, Roberts post Great War started a campaign to be awarded the VC, unsuccessful, and receive a monetary award from WSC for saving his life. This he refused to do, but, did give funds to enhance his life.

    I personally dislike colourised photos, in the case of those shown, I possess high quality prints of the originals. The photographer in all cases used light and tones to the best effect, with a high degree of realism for that period of time.


    • Hi Gordon, you are right – I’ve corrected the points on depression and alcohol – it was originally designed as a throw away comment for a Boer War appreciation group I belong to where a Republican pundit was determined to ‘lecture’ me about WSC’s alleged alcohol dependency, I’m still waiting for the lecture. Point taken. Thanks you for that interesting bit of WSC in South Africa, I’ll be sure to share that on said Boer War appreciation group.

      Liked by 1 person

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