Photo Of The Day

Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965) gives his famous V-sign as he opens the new headquarters of 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron of the RAAF (Royal Auxiliary Air Force) at Croydon in 1948 in England. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) gives his famous V-sign as he opens the new headquarters of 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron of the RAAF (Royal Auxiliary Air Force) at Croydon in 1948 in England. (Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

V Sign

The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous two-fingered V for Victory sign began life at the BBC.  July 19, 2015 will celebrate 74 Years since Winston Churchill launched his V for Victory Campaign in a Speech.

On January 14, 1941, Victor de Laveleye, former Belgian Minister of Justice and director of the Belgian French-speaking broadcasts on the BBC (1940–44), suggested in a broadcast that Belgians use a V for victoire (French: “victory”) and vrijheid (Dutch: “freedom”) as a rallying emblem during World War II.

In the BBC broadcast, de Laveleye said that “the occupier, by seeing this sign, always the same, infinitely repeated, [would] understand that he is surrounded, encircled by an immense crowd of citizens eagerly awaiting his first moment of weakness, watching for his first failure.” Within weeks chalked up Vs began appearing on walls throughout Belgium, the Netherlands, and northern France.

Buoyed by this success, the BBC started the “V for Victory” campaign, for which they put in charge the assistant news editor Douglas Ritchie posing as “Colonel Britton”. Ritchie suggested an audible V using its Morse code rhythm (three dots and a dash).

As the rousing opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony had the same rhythm, the BBC used this as its call-sign in its foreign language programmes to occupied Europe for the rest of the war. The more musically educated also understood that it was the Fate motif “knocking on the door” of the Third Reich.

Listen to this call-sign.

The BBC also encouraged the use of the V gesture introduced by de Laveleye

By July 1941, the emblematic use of the letter V had spread through occupied Europe. On July 19, Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred approvingly to the V for Victory campaign in a speech, from which point he started using the V hand sign. Early on he sometimes gestured palm in (sometimes with a cigar between the fingers). Later in the war, he used palm out. After aides explained to Churchill what the palm in gesture meant to other classes, he made sure to use the appropriate sign.

Yet the double-entendre of the gesture might have contributed to its popularity, “for a simple twist of hand would have presented the dorsal side in a mocking snub to the common enemy”. Other allied leaders used the sign as well; since 1942, Charles de Gaulle used the V sign in every speech until 1969.

U.S. President Richard Nixon used the gesture to signal victory in the Vietnam War, an act which became one of his best-known trademarks. He also used it on his departure from public office following his resignation in 1974.

Protesters against the Vietnam War (and subsequent anti-war protests) and counterculture activists adopted the gesture as a sign of peace. Because the hippies of the day often flashed this sign (palm out) while saying “Peace”, it became popularly known (through association) as the peace sign.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/history/story/2007/02/070122_html_40s.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_sign#cite_note-radio-9

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