When it went under the hammer at Lindsay Burns (20% buyer’s premium) in Perth on December 6 with an estimate of £800-1200, competition was fierce. It eventually sold to London dealer Andrew Sim at £26,000.
The 3ft 4in x 5ft 4in (1 x 1.64m) oil shows the evacuation on Wednesday, May 29, 1940 looking towards Dunkirk from the Bray Dunes.
Spencer-Churchill, then a captain in the Royal Engineers, later wrote of “a strange, absolutely incredible moment” when “a squadron of French cavalry suddenly appeared and galloped silently across the soft sands”.
Spencer-Churchill was Winston Churchill’s nephew. On his arrival in London, still damp in his battle dress, he pleaded with his uncle to send a fleet of small craft to Dunkirk.
The picture was hung at Chartwell before it was given to the Institute of Army Education and was consigned to this sale by a local vendor who bought it at auction in the 1970s.
Sim calls it a picture of “huge national and international importance” and plans to use it as the centrepiece of his annual wartime exhibition, Holding the Line, next year.
“What makes it stand out is its quality of actual testimony,” Sim adds. “Facts and scenes that might have seemed peculiar or unlikely when told second-hand give the finished piece its veracity.”