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Churchill's War Rooms

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published January 26th 2011
Cabinet Room
Cabinet Room
What do you think it would have been like to be member of staff working for Churchill's War Office during WW2? Obviously lots of it would have been very frightening, the idea of losing a loved one off doing their bit, and hearing the air raid sirens over London every night. But some of it would have been exciting as well or at least that's how it seems when you visit Churchill's War Rooms, a museum made out of the rooms the war was run and won out of, built into the ground underneath Whitehall.

This historic subterranean complex was built to house the Government during the war right under the Treasury office and it housed some of the staff day and night until 1945 when Japan surrendered. So as well as the radar rooms, intelligence rooms and rooms with those big maps in them charting enemy and allied progress, there are also bunk rooms and bedrooms for people to stay overnight in in case severe air raids were anticipated. While you'd be safe down there it would certainly be an eerie way to spend the night even if you were someone important enough to warrant your own room. But everyone had to do their bit and it would have been no worse than sleeping on an underground station platform.

Map Room
Map Room
Things have largely been kept as they were, to the extent that you can still see the final tallies from the Blitz bombings on the notice board in the map room. Most of the furniture is original, as are most of the 'odds and ends'. Which makes Churchill's office/ bedroom particularly interesting, as it still has the BBC broadcasting equipment in it that he used to deliver four broadcasts to the nation. The Transatlantic Telephone Room is also another highlight, this is where Churchill could talk, securely to President Roosevelt in Washington.

Churchill's Bedroom
Churchill's Bedroom
As well as the physical surroundings being kept as is, the museum also has plenty of audio, photographs and a little bit of video of what it was like being involved in the war cabinet and living in London during this time. Seeing the ration books and hearing some of the stories really brings home how difficult it must have been for families just to keep going when they could be losing family members at any moment, both in the air raids and overseas.

As well as the underground offices etc. the museum also incorporates the Churchill Museum, which charts the whole of Churchill's life chronologically, allowing visitors to see the man's life in context, including his great successes and failures. Again, there's plenty of multimedia material here to help bring the whole exhibition to life.
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Why? See real historical drama
When: Open daily 9.30am - 6.00pm
Where: King Charles St, City of London SW1A 2AQ, nearest station Wesminster
Cost: Adults 16
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