Last updated: 01/10/2019
For those who like to know more about WWII history, the Churchill War Rooms in London is a must-see. It was from here that Winston Churchill, the famous British Prime Minister, commanded the British Armed Forces. Everything would be very normal if it was a simple office, but these are bunkers that were built to protect against enemy bombing. The place has so much history to tell that it is an unmissable program in the city.
CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS: WWII BUNKERS IN LONDON
Churchill War Rooms is part of a complex of British war museums. Besides him, there are two more in London: the Imperial War Museum, with free admission and an exciting exhibition about the Holocaust; it's the HMS Belfast, the ship-turned-museum, is moored on the River Thames, close to London City Hall and the iconic Tower Bridge. There is yet another museum that also includes war artifacts which is the Royal Air Force Museum, which features an exhibition of British Air Force aircraft.
What really stands out about Churchill War Rooms is the fact that it is underground! The complex comprises two parts: Cabinet War Rooms, an underground complex that housed the British government's command center during World War II; it's the Churchill Museum, a biographically focused museum that aims to explore the life of Prime Minister and War Minister Winston Churchill.
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CHRONOLOGY OF THE WAR ROOMS
The construction of the War Rooms began in 1938. On-site activities began on August 27, 1939, a few days before the start of the Second World War (Remembering that: on September 1st, Poland was invaded; and on the 3rd, Great Britain declared war on the Germans). The place worked 24 hours a day until August 16, 1945, after the war came to an end with the Japanese surrender. War Rooms Cabinets have become a museum in 1984, 45 years after the first days of operation. In 2005, after a major renovation, the museum opened a new area and was renamed “Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms”. In 2010, the name was shortened and became only “Churchill War Rooms”.
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HOW IS ACCESS TO WAR ROOMS
As the corridors of the place are tight, access is limited and you have to wait for authorization to enter the place. Go down the stairs and you will find the reception to buy your tickets and pick up your audio guide next door. Don't forget to take the audio guide (has in Portuguese!). Each room visited has a number that must be selected during the visit with many important explanations about how the War Rooms work. There are restrooms on the left side of the reception if you want to use them before starting the tour.
Everyone knows that after the end of the First World War and the subsequent humiliation of Germany, the world was looking like a ticking time bomb ready to explode at any moment. In 1936, the British War Office warned of the possibility of London being attacked in having to pay, in addition to a huge financial loss, with the death of no less than 200 thousand citizens a week! Several studies were carried out to find out which location was the most appropriate to keep the main government offices, reaching the conclusion that the most appropriate region would be in the basement of the New Public Offices (which currently houses the British Treasury). And so began an incredible job of installing communications and transmission equipment, soundproofing walls, specific ventilation and strengthening the walls to prevent the site from being destroyed by enemy air strikes.
The visit to the site is simply incredible. One of the information passed is that Churchill's working hours during the war were from 6 am to 3 am the next day! It is possible to know several rooms of the complex, meeting rooms, administrative departments, kitchen, rooms of officers, ministers and military strategists who were on site and much more. The audio guide helps to tell you how the life in the bunker, the roles of each person and the daily lives of those who spent years working underground.
The rooms are exposed to the public with transparent glass in front of the very well preserved period items. To better represent life inside the bunker, dolls were placed representing government and military officials working in the administrative areas.
The last room on this tour of the War Rooms is the most anticipated of all: Prime Minister Winston Churchill's room. As you can see, nothing fancy, but it was a little bigger than the other rooms in the bunker. Notes and maps on the walls show that Churchill didn't stop thinking about war strategies for a single minute!
To make it easier to describe the place, we have put the Churchill Museum as a new topic. It is worth remembering that the visit to the museum is made in the first few minutes of visiting the War Rooms (see map at the beginning of this post for more details).
More than 20 years after the War Rooms opened to the public, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Churchill Museum, which is included in the entrance ticket. The museum covers an area of 850 m² and is a great tribute to the statesman Winston Churchill (1874-1965), depicting information about his personal life, his work, and his legacy as a strongman in the British government. Churchill is considered by many to be the most important person in the country's history.
The exhibition is quite interesting with personal items, videos, documents, clothing, gifts and many historical explanations. There is information about his wife Clementine, Churchill's hobbies like painting and literature and even a surprising Nobel Prize for Literature won by him and his american citizenship received on an honorary basis!
There are awards and recognitions received at the exhibition; going on later on details about his personal life until his death. The celebrated statesman received honors reserved only for royalty, with a funeral held at the Cathedral of St. Paul, one of the most important churches in the UK.
Important: the exposure no follows chronological time. It is divided into 5 chapters:
- Chapter 1: 1940-1945 – Leader of the War
- Chapter 2: 1945-1965 – The Statesman in the Cold War
- Chapter 3: 1874-1900 – Young Churchill
- Chapter 4: 1900-1929 - Maverick Policy
- Chapter 5: 1929-1939 – The Worst Years
Curiosity: who makes one UK Parliament tour located in the Palace of Westminster, you can see a statue of Churchill at the entrance to the House of Commons. There is also a statue of him in the square located in front of the Parliament building, Parliament Square Garden.
In the middle of the tour, there is a cafe located in an old bunker room that is open daily. There is a variety of sandwiches, salads, drinks, cakes and assorted dishes. Hunger hit me during the middle of the visit and I took the opportunity to taste a delicious homemade sandwich.
- Schedules: from 10:00 to 17:00 (hot dishes are served until 15:00)
- Menu: Check the full menu in this link.
At the end of the tour, you will arrive at a gift shop where you can buy posters identical to those of the time, t-shirts, caps, books depicting the Second World War and, for those who are a real fan, even items featuring Winston Churchill. printed, as I am in the case of the mug below.
HOW TO GET
Make use of London's incredible subway network by reaching the War Rooms via the stations (both are less than a 10-minute walk away):
- Westminster: Jubilee Line (Grey), District Line (green) and circle line (Yellow)
- St James's Park: District Line (green) and circle line (Yellow)
- Address: Clive Steps, King Charles St, London SW1A 2AQ, UK
- Schedules: daily from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
- Entrance: £18.90 – buy online in this link
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