Photograph album of Russian tanks made in Smethwick, September 1941
Valentine Mk2 tanks being unveiled in front of the Russian ambassador, Ivan Maisky, and Harold Macmillan
This is a large photograph album containing fourteen press images titled "Photographs taken on the occasion of the visit to The Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co Ltd, Smethwick, of His Excellency the Ambassador of the U.S.S.R. in Great Britain, Monsieur Maisky & of Madame Maisky. September 22nd, 1941".
The album measures approx 38 × 32cm, has a printed title to the inside cover and 14 pasted in black and white images on black card pages, the remaining pages left blank. The album is bound with two metal screws. The majority of photographs are printed 24.5 × 19.5cm, with a slim white margin.
Under the banner "All Help for Russia Now", the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company began to make Valentine MK2 tanks for the Russian front. In the summer of 1941, Germany had invaded the Soviet Union and so violated the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (the non-aggression treaty signed between Germany and the USSR in 1939). The Soviet Union allied with Britain, America and their allies.
These photographs show the unveiling of the first produced Valentine MK2 tank, which was named Stalin, and they were decorated with the V for victory symbol. The workers are riding out on the tanks, many of whom are making the Communist salute with their fists, and banners can be seen declaring "Berlin or Bust" and the Soviet flag is visible.
Present at the unveiling of this first tank was the Russian ambassador to Britain, Ivan Maisky and his wife, as well as Harold Macmillan. Maisky can be seen addressing the workers, during which he declared that the tanks "will not rust in idleness" but would be sent to the front line as soon as they arrived in Russia (The first British tanks went into action on November 20, 1941, in the Battle of Moscow).
The fourteen photos are: 1. Workers on the tank, 2. Workers around Maisky, 3. Workers applauding Maisky, 4. The arrival of Maisky with Harold Macmillan, 5. Workers on the tank, showing Communist salute, 6. Group shot of workers with the first tank, 'Stalin', and with a "Berlin or Bust" banner, 7. Maisky and Macmillan, 8. A variant of no 6 but with Maisky taking the podium, 9. Maisky in front of the tank, addressing the workers, 10. A different shot but same as no 9, 11. Close-up of Maiksy, 12. Another close-up of Maisky, 13. Maisky leaving the podium, 14. A shot from above of the tank and crowd (this with a blank white space to the top right corners, but this is in the print rather than damage.)
The album's covers are a bit rubbed and dusty but the fourteen photographs are in very good condition, and the album's inner binding is in good, secure condition.
Further images are available on request.