Winston Churchill and the Great Republic


Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier, 1908.

Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier, 1908. Copyprint. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (48)

Winston met Clementine Hozier for the first time in 1904, but the flame of romance was ignited at their second meeting in April 1908.

After this second encounter, Winston threw himself into a lightning courtship. Just four months later, on Tuesday August 11, 1908, he chose the grounds of Blenheim Palace as the backdrop for his proposal. On display are the love letters that passed between the newly betrothed couple. They were married one month later at Saint Margaret's Church, Westminster, in London on September 12, 1908.

The marriage was a lasting and happy one. Clementine created the stable home environment that allowed Winston to be so active. They wrote warmly to one another whenever apart but also had fiery arguments. Clementine was the critic Winston heeded above all others. Their letters often end with drawings that illustrate their pet names. He was her “pug” She was his “cat.” They had five children: Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold, who died in infancy, and Mary.

A Walk Down the Garden Path

In this note written by Winston to Clementine on the morning after she accepted his proposal of marriage (left), he suggests a walk in the rose garden after breakfast before her departure. The note would have been taken by one of Winston's footmen from his bedroom to the room in which Clementine was staying. In Clementine's reply (right), presumably carried back to an eagerly waiting Winston by the footman, she accepts his offer of a walk and asks for a letter about the engagement to present to her mother.

Winston Churchill to Clementine Hozier, August 12, 1908. Holograph letter. Page 2 Baroness Spencer-Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (45.1, 45.2)

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He Was Her Pug, She Was His Cat

Winston and Clementine ended their personal letters with simple drawings depicting their pet names for one another. He was her “pug,” she was his “cat.” Here, on the final page of a letter sent by Winston to Clementine from Germany a year into married life, Winston has drawn a “galloping pug - for European travel.” In the paragraph above he asks Clementine to kiss the “P.K.”—which stands for “puppy kitten”—his reference to their first baby.

Winston Churchill to Clementine Churchill. September 15, 1909. Holograph letter. Page 2. Baroness Spencer-Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (46)

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Engagement Photo

Entranced by the beauty, intelligence, and character of the poor, but well-born, Clementine Hozier, Churchill welcomed an opportunity to be alone with her. Strolling together on the Blenheim Palace grounds, they took refuge from a sudden rainstorm in a small building. There he used all of his formidable eloquence to persuade her to marry him. She accepted, and in September 1908, as Winston later wrote, “I married and lived happily ever afterwards.”

Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier, 1908. Copyprint. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (48)

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Politics and Prominence

In 1900 Churchill began a remarkable career in the same political world where his father, Randolph, had left a brilliant, if brief, impression. Elected to Parliament as a hero of the Boer War, Churchill soon became known for his indefatigable energy and rhetorical eloquence. A fervent advocate of free trade and low tariffs, he switched his political affiliation from Conservative to Liberal in 1904. Many viewed his action as disloyal and opportunistic. Churchill's subsequent career, however, revealed strong inclinations toward social reform and a concern for the welfare of the less fortunate.

Churchill's ascent to power became even more rapid after the Liberals won a decisive electoral victory in 1906. In swift succession, his party's leaders entrusted to him a series of important positions leading to a seat in the Cabinet. By 1911, at the age of thirty-six, he was serving as First Lord of the Admiralty—the civilian head of Britain's navy. On the eve of World War I the young politician had established himself as one of his nation's most influential public figures.


His Father's Son

When Churchill returned home from South Africa and prepared to enter the political world, the press began to compare him to his famous father. On the left is a caricature of Winston drawn by “Spy” before his election to Parliament. On the right is a caricature of Lord Randolph Churchill, drawn some twenty years earlier by the same artist. Both images were used to illustrate a continuing series of articles in Vanity Fair entitled “Men of the Day.” The article that accompanied Winston's caricature stated, “He can write and he can fight. . . . But he can hardly be the slave of any party,” and ended “. . . his ways and manners are constant reminders of his father.”

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  • “Spy” [Leslie Ward]. Winston. From “The Vanity Fair Album: A Show of Statesmen, Judges, and Men of the Day,” vol. XXXII, 1900. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (43a)

  • “Spy” [Leslie Ward]. A Younger Son. From “The Vanity Fair Album: A Show of Statesmen, Judges, and Men of the Day,” vol. XII, 1880. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (43b)

Rising Conservative Star

Churchill's birth and family connections often provided opportunities unavailable to other young politicians. This photograph shows him addressing a large political rally held in the summer of 1901 at his birthplace, Blenheim Palace. Seconding a resolution commending leaders of the Conservative (Unionist) Party, Churchill praised them for having brought the “colonies into line with the Mother Country” even as he condemned “the mischievous work” of the deceased Liberal Prime Minister William E. Gladstone.

Winston Churchill addressing Unionist Party meeting, August 10, 1901. Copyprint. Marlborough Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (43.1)

Teddy and Winnie

Theodore Roosevelt met Churchill in December 1900 while the brash young English politician was lecturing in the United States. Roosevelt did not become an admirer. In this 1908 letter Roosevelt says that Winston's father Randolph “was a rather cheap character,” and that Winston “is a rather cheap character.” He would later add that both father and son displayed “levity, lack of sobriety, lack of permanent principle, and an inordinate thirst for that cheap form of admiration which is given to notoriety.”

Theodore Roosevelt to Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. May 23, 1908. Page 2. Facsimile of letterbook. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (49)

Churchill and the Kaiser

Churchill's interest in military affairs continued throughout his life. This 1909 photograph shows him attending German Army maneuvers with Kaiser Wilhelm. In the accompanying letter to his cousin Marlborough, written “in the midst of stirring affairs” while serving as First Lord of the Admiralty, he derides the “military virtues” of Turkey and warns of a “far greater conflict” than the Balkan wars then taking place: “. . . the European situation is far from safe, & anything might happen.”

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The Dance of Politics

Imagining that Liberal Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman would compare the vicissitudes of British parliamentary politics to a sea voyage, with sudden storms and calms, artist Edward Tennyson Reed caricatured leading public figures in the cartoon shown here. Campbell-Bannerman is the large figure in the left foreground; Churchill, then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (and soon to enter the cabinet as President of the Board of Trade), is depicted as the small sailor, second from the right.

Edward Tennyson Reed. Parliamentary 'Liberty Men' Return to H.M.S. 'Loquacity,' 1908. Pencil drawing. Swann Collection, Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress (53) LC-USZ62-94829
[Digital ID# cph 3b40997]

Churchill Loses A Bet

In 1909 Churchill, then a Liberal, bet his Conservative cousin, the eighth Duke of Marlborough, that Parliament's House of Lords would not reject the reform budget as passed by the House of Commons. The Lords did in fact reject the measure, precipitating a constitutional crisis. Churchill's private secretary, Eddie Marsh, sent this payment with the explanation,“This is for Winston's budget bet. I didn't know jokes were allowed on cheques.” Marlborough never cashed the check, made out for the amount, “Twenty-five pounds—Cheap at the price.”

Winston Churchill to The Duke of Marlborough. December 7, 1909. Printed and signed check. Marlborough Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (54)

Budget Crisis

During the Budget Crisis of 1909-1912, Churchill was among the leaders of a movement to increase taxes on Britain's wealthiest inhabitants. The Liberal Party, which Churchill had joined in 1904, desired additional revenue to fund social programs and increase defense spending. The House of Commons passed the measure in 1909, but the House of Lords, dominated by Conservative landowners, rejected the measure and forced new elections. This early recorded Churchill address gives a good indication of his progressive political philosophy.

Photo of Winston Churchill speaking

Winston Churchill. Speech on the budget, 1909. Sound disc. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (55.1)


First Lord of the Admiralty

In 1911 Prime Minister Herbert Asquith appointed Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty, the civilian head of Britain's Navy. The caricature displayed here portrays him as he smiles for a photographer. The man accompanying him may be David Lloyd George, a Liberal ally. Also shown is a letter to his young cousin, a naval officer critical of British foreign policy. Churchill advises him “to preserve a calm and sober view of men and things, avoiding disproportionate judgments and extravagant language.”

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“Chequered Fortunes”

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 offered Churchill his first opportunity to influence events on a global scale. Dismayed by the development of the bloody stalemate in Europe, Churchill, the energetic First Lord of the Admiralty, promoted the development and use of such new weapons as airplanes and tanks. He also sent an expedition to attack Germany's ally, Turkey, through the Dardanelles Strait. This military effort failed, contributing to his fall from power. Widely blamed and thoroughly disheartened, Churchill volunteered for six months as an infantry officer on the western front and endured the hardships and dangers of trench warfare.

In 1917, what he called his “chequered fortunes” changed, and he was returned to public office. Churchill took charge of Britain's armaments production and worked closely with his American counterparts until an armistice was concluded on November 11, 1918.

In peacetime Churchill assumed even more responsible positions. As his government's special emissary, he had mixed success in coping with war-related disruptions in such widely separated places as Russia, Ireland, Palestine, and Iraq. By 1924 Churchill, a Conservative once more, had become Chancellor of the Exchequer, a post once held by his father and considered to be second only to that of prime minister.

The Dardanelles

During the first months of World War I, Churchill energetically prosecuted the war at sea, but he soon became frustrated with the emerging deadlock on the Western front. He sent an expedition to attack Germany's ally, Turkey, through the Dardanelles Strait. Frustrated by the Navy's indecisive performance, Churchill drafted this memorandum quoting Shakespeare and Napoleon in an unsuccessful attempt to strengthen the resolve of his most senior Admiral, Lord “Jacky” Fisher. As the displayed letter from Churchill's brother Jack (then serving with the expeditionary forces) shows, the expedition was turning into a failure. Consequently, Churchill was fired from the Admiralty.

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  • John Spencer Churchill to the Duke of Marlborough. July 3, 1915. Page 2. Holograph letter Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (63). © Crown copyright 1915. Archival Reference # CHAR 13/57/3

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  • Winston Churchill to Admiral Lord Fisher. April 8, 1915. Holograph letter. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge. U.K. (63.1). © Crown copyright 1915

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This Australian-made map of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Dardanelles Strait depicts the problems inherent in Churchill's plan to attack Constantinople (now Istanbul). The extensive minefields in the narrow waterway were covered by artillery, making it difficult for British minesweepers to operate. Amphibious operations were hampered by the rugged terrain on the peninsula. The map also shows the sites of the landings by British, Australian, and New Zealand troops, as well as the places where British and French ships were sunk.

H.E.C. Robinson. Dardanelles Sea of Marmara, Bosporus. Sydney: H.E.C. Robinson, ca. 1920. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (65)

New Weapons

Throughout World War I, Churchill pushed for the development and effective use of new weapons. At the Admiralty, he was a forceful advocate of military aviation, and he played a large part in the development of “land ships,” later renamed “tanks,” in an effort to deceive the enemy. After he left the Admiralty, Churchill wrote this memorandum, urging the use of the new “Stokes” mortars in trench-warfare situations such as existed on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Winston Churchill to the Dardanelles Committee. October 4, 1915. Printed memorandum. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (66.1). © Crown copyright 1915

Rugged Terrain of Gallipoli

Churchill had originally tried to force passage through the Dardanelles Strait by ships alone. When this failed, landings became inevitable. Allied troops went ashore on April 25, 1915, and suffered heavy losses. This photograph depicts the beachhead and hints at the rugged terrain of the Gallipoli Peninsula that contributed to the failure of subsequent operations.

Photograph of ANZAC Beach, Gallipoli Peninsula. Copyprint. Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (67.1) © Crown copyright 1915

Churchill Takes Up Painting

Divested of power and responsibility after the Dardanelles fiasco, Churchill sought outlets for his enormous store of creative energy. This sketch, by “Artist Unknown”—who may have been Churchill himself—depicts the ex-Minister painting the interior of his birthplace and family home, Blenheim Palace.

Winston Churchill in Blenheim Palace, 1916. Page 2. Pencil Drawing. Marlborough Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (72)

The Life of an Infantry Colonel

Widely blamed for the costly failure of the Dardanelles expedition, Churchill was forced out of government in 1915. In despair he left England and served for six months as a World War I infantry officer on the Western Front. This letter to the Duke of Marlborough reveals the dangers he encountered and his fatalistic determination. He also asked his kinsman whether he thought he exemplified their family motto “Fiel Pero Desdichado” (faithful but unfortunate).

Winston Churchill to the Duke of Marlborough. January 12, 1916. Page 2 . Holograph letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (69)

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Thoughts on Grand Strategy

Although the duties of a battalion commander in the Sixth Royal Scots Fusiliers took up most of his time, Churchill continued to give careful thought to British domestic politics as well as the overall course of the war. This letter displays his disgust with the policies of his former colleagues. The Germans, Churchill believed, had managed to fool British leaders into dispersing their forces even as they lured them into breaking “our teeth on their tremendous defensive lines in the West & in Russia.”

Winston Churchill to the Duke of Marlborough. January 22, 1916. Page 2 - Page 3. Holograph letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (70)

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Torch with Shrapnel Damage

This Orilux torch was presented to Churchill by his brother-in-law Bertram Romilly on November 15, 1915. The torch displays signs of shrapnel damage incurred while Churchill fought in the front line trenches during World War I. He came near to death on the morning of February 16, 1916, when his temporary headquarters was shelled during his breakfast.

Orilux trench torch, 1915. On loan from the National Trust, Chartwell, U.K. (71)

The Bolsheviks and the World Crisis

The fifth volume of Churchill's history of the First World War, originally published as The Aftermath, covered postwar developments and their wartime origins. The volume also discussed at length the Russian Revolution and civil war. Back in power in 1919 as Secretary of State for War, Churchill advocated intervention in favor of the anti-Communist forces. In one passage from his book, Churchill describes Communist leader Vladimir Lenin during the war as “the most grisly of all weapons,” smuggled back into Russia “in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus” by the Germans.

Winston S. Churchill. The World Crisis, vol. 5. London: T. Butterworth, 1923-1931. Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (71.2)

Churchill Becomes Minister for Munitions

David Lloyd George became Prime Minister in 1916. He had worked with Churchill since 1904. In July 1917 Churchill was brought out of the “political wilderness” and made Minister for Munitions. This clearly pleased Churchill's cousin, Shane Leslie, who wrote to Lady Randolph from Vermont expressing his pleasure and remarking that Americans looked “on Winston as 7/8 Yankee and 1/8 Blenheim.”

Shane Leslie to Lady Randolph Churchill. August 8, 1917. Page 2 . Holograph letter. Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (73)

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Anglo-American Cooperation

World War I gave Churchill his first experience of cooperation with officials from the United States on crucial matters. As Minister of Munitions, he worked with his American counterpart, Bernard M. Baruch, chairman of the War Industries Board. In this letter he tells Admiral William S. Sims, commander of American naval forces in Europe, that Anglo-American wartime cooperation formed “a clear precedent, & one which is of the highest value to the future in which such vast issues hang on unity between our two countries in ideals & in action.”

Winston Churchill to William S. Sims. March 31, 1919. Page 2 . Holograph letter. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (76) © Crown copyright 1919

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Churchill in 1919

This photograph, probably taken while Churchill was Secretary of State for War and Air, was inscribed and given to U.S. General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.

Winston Churchill. 1919. Photograph. Pershing Papers. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (77)

“Will America Fail Us?”

After the First World War, Churchill found himself in a difficult position. As a friend of the United States, he was called upon to explain to the British people why America was retreating into isolationism and away from the peace treaty and the League of Nations that President Woodrow Wilson had been so instrumental in developing.

Winston Churchill. “Will America Fail Us?,”. November 30, 1919. Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4. Typescript. Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (78)

Reshaping the Middle East

As Secretary of State for the Colonies (1921-1922) Churchill played a large role in determining the fate of the territories that had been detached from the Ottoman Empire after World War I. This photograph shows him during the Cairo Conference (1921), walking with T. E. Lawrence—“Lawrence of Arabia.” During this conference Churchill helped establish the government, ethnic composition, and political boundaries of Iraq and other portions of the Middle East.

Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence. 1921. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (79). LC-USZ62-65460. [Digital ID# cph 3b12983]


Chancellor of the Exchequer

In 1924 Churchill returned to the Conservative Party. He soon reached the highest point in his career thus far—appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the British government's second-highest political post. Here, he is shown on his way to Buckingham Palace to receive the seals of office from King George V. Churchill's tenure in this office (1924-1929) was notable for his adherence to the gold standard and for his publication of a government newspaper, The British Gazette, during a general strike.

Underwood & Underwood. Winston Churchill, 1924. Copyprint. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (81) LC-USZ62-75528

Churchill's Hallmark Style

Churchill knew the value of maintaining a strong personal image. Whether relaxing in his zip-up “siren suit” so called because it could be put on easily in an air raid, or reviewing troops in military great coat and peaked cap, he always stood out from the crowd. Throughout his long career, he was rarely pictured without a trademark hat, bow-tie and ever-present cigar. The artifacts displayed here all belonged to Sir Winston.

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  • Cotton bow-tie. On loan from the National Trust, Chartwell, U.K. (1.1a)

  • Silk top hat. “W.S.C.” marked inside rim. Scott & Co. Piccadilly. On loan from the National Trust, Chartwell, UK. (1.1b)

  • Cigar box made from Kauri wood inlaid with Pukatea. The inscription reads “presented to Winston Spencer Churchill C.B., M.P.,from The Legion of Frontiersmen, New Zealand Command, for valiant services rendered in saving The British Empire 1939-1952, God Guard Thee.” On loan from the National Trust, Chartwell, U.K. (1.1c)

Painting as a Pastime

During the summer of 1915, following his fall from power, Churchill, discovered the world of painting. He wrote later that having been forced “cruelly” into inactivity, “the Muse of Painting came to my rescue.” About 500 Winston Churchill paintings exist. Although confident and self-assured in fields of politics, oratory, and writing, he was modest about his achievements as a painter. He sought and accepted constructive criticism and enjoyed experimenting with new media and techniques. Churchill once vowed, “When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting, and so to get to the bottom of the subject.”

Winston Churchill. Flowers in a Green Vase, ca. 1930s. Oil on canvas. On loan from Senator John Warner (99)

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Return to America

The Conservative government was defeated in 1929, and Churchill, now out of office, was in need of income. After an absence of almost thirty years, he crossed the Atlantic and undertook an extensive lecture tour of North America. This trip included his only visit to the West Coast of the United States, where he was lavishly entertained in California by William Randolph Hearst. Churchill also experienced Prohibition first hand and was in New York in time to witness the Wall Street crash. The collapse of the American stock market, in which Churchill had invested, wiped out any financial gains from the tour.

Churchill was now increasingly dependent on his writing and public speaking to sustain his lifestyle. He returned to America for yet another lecture tour in December 1931, but suffered a further setback when he was seriously injured by a car on New York's Fifth Avenue. With characteristic resilience, he turned the episode to his advantage by writing about it for the newspapers.

Iced Beer

On his 1929 visit to the United States, Churchill entered the country from Canada via Seattle. In this letter to Clementine, he recounts the interrogation for liquor by the customs official enforcing prohibition, before recounting how the same official joined him for an iced beer: “The Customs gent explained that the United States was not interested 'in the ultimate consumer'!” He also describes his son Randolph as his “Gannymede,” cupbearer to the Gods, and makes it clear he was being well-supplied with alcohol.

Winston Churchill to Clementine Churchill. September 18, 1929. Annotated typescript letter. Baroness Spencer-Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (84)

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Traveling in Style

This is the first page of a letter written by Winston to Clementine from Randolph Hearst's desert villa at San Simeon, California. Churchill was traveling in style. He rode in a special railway car provided by the steel magnate Charles Schwab, and media mogul Hearst introduced him to the glamorous world of Hollywood.

Winston Churchill to Clementine Churchill. September 29, 1929. Page 2. Holograph letter. Baroness Spencer-Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (87)

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Hit by a Car in New York City

December 13, 1931 was an unlucky day for Churchill. He was seriously injured by a car while crossing Fifth Avenue in New York. Churchill was left bleeding and bruised and had to postpone his lecture tour. Yet he refused to accept defeat and resolved to turn the experience into a newspaper article. Here he asks his friend, Oxford University physicist Professor Frederick Lindemann, to calculate the precise force of the impact.

Winston Churchill to Professor Frederick Lindemann. December 24, 1931. Facsimile of telegram. Churchill Papers. Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (89)

Two Charges of Buckshot

In this telegram, sent in reply to Churchill's inquiry, Professor Frederick Lindemann estimated the force of the impact of the car that hit him as being equivalent to two charges of buckshot fired point blank. The professor cannot resist teasing Churchill about the mitigating effect of his weight and congratulating him on preparing a suitable cushion for the bump.

Professor Frederick Lindemann to Winston Churchill. December 30, 1931. Page 2 . Telegram. Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K.(90)

“My New York Misadventure”

Throughout his career, Churchill wrote popular articles to supplement his political and literary income and maintain his lifestyle. Shown here is the first part of Churchill's article recounting his “New York Misadventure,” as it appeared in the British Daily Mail newspaper.

Winston Churchill. “New York Misadventure.” Daily Mail. January 5, 1932. Copyprint. Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, U.K. (91)

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