Churchill War Rooms
Underground headquarters that were the nucleus of Britain’s war effort.
Winston Churchill and his ministers spent much of World War II holed up in these underground offices, for six years a secret nerve centre for the British government and military top brass. Preserved as an historic site since 1948 and still sporting original fixtures and fittings (although now staffed by a few mannequins), the Churchill War Rooms are a spookily atmospheric time capsule for the years 1939-45.
Built to withstand the Nazi blitzkrieg, the Churchill War Rooms have since 1984 surrendered themselves daily to armies of visitors who file past rooms where history was made: the converted broom cupboard from which Churchill telephoned Roosevelt, the Prime Minister's Spartan office-cum-bedroom, the Map Room, as well as the inner sanctum of the whole complex — the Cabinet Room itself. Less glamorous rooms like the typing pool evoke the drudgery of war work and there are displays examining different aspects of the war.
Visitors can also see the private rooms set aside for Churchill's wife and key members of staff, the Chief of Staff's Conference Room, as well as the tiny kitchen that kept Churchill supplied with 3 square meals a day. Free audio guides in a range of languages are issued on arrival. Lasting an hour, these are essential listening for visitors who wish to explore the site thoroughly. Shorter guides are available for those with less time and there's a children's version too.
The Switch Room Café offers simple light meals of the sandwich, coffee and cake variety, served to the strains of popular music from Vera Lynn, Glenn Millar and other 194os stars. The shop doesn't ration the nostalgia either, stocking a selection of goods with a wartime theme. The on-site Churchill Museum explores the life, leadership and legacy of the man himself.
Divided into five colour-coded chapters, the museum begins with Churchill's finest hour his war years—and his transformation from political outsider to against-the-odds victor. Churchill's gruelling wartime regime saw him working 17 hour days and notching up an incredible 40,000 'war miles' as he sought to keep his Allies on side.
The displays reflect the multi-faceted character of their subject, allowing visitors to enjoy audio excerpts from Churchill's famous speeches as well as ponder the letter from his wife reprimanding him for his deteriorating behaviour to colleagues. Other chapters look at the rest of Churchill's life, from wayward public school boy, to intrepid reporter and army officer to maverick politician, Nobel Laureate, painter and Cold War statesman.
At the heart of the displays is a 15 metre long touchscreen time line that gives a day-by-day account of Churchill's life with spectacular animations for key events such as the Dambusters' Raid and Churchill's 90th birthday.