Who Stole Churchill’s Cigar ?

A London museum exhibition on Britain’s war years is missing one crucial ingredient:

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.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.


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.

‘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.

Considering Churchill’s well-known love of both cigars and scotch, it is somewhat amusing that an artist would choose to remove the cigar from his mouth, no matter what the reason.

And I’m fairly sure that Winston would not be pleased.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    The author’s photograph in the back cover of “Goodnight Moon” used to include a cigerette held casually by Margert Wise Brown. No more. Harper-Collins removed it, and now Margeret just seems to have a hand held out for no reason. To quote one of Doug’s wise tags: “Dumbasses”.