Monday, October 7, 2013

London - The Churchill War Rooms

   (I spent two weeks in September in London. I've been there five times before, some of those trips leading groups of high school students.  The goal of this trip was to visit some of the lesser known sites I've always wanted to see, such as this one.)

   The Churchill War Rooms were built secretly to protect the government and the Prime Minister in the dangerous days of World War II in London during the Blitz. From 1940-45, hundreds of people lived their lives in this underground bunker beneath the Treasury Building, Whitehall, where the war work went on around the clock. 
The Cabinet War Room was where Churchill, his military commanders, and his cabinet planned the strategies and battles to win the war.  There are said to be scratch marks on the arms of Churchill's chair, attesting to the agony of the pressure and tension in this room.

 
   In the Phone Room phones were color-coded for different uses, one especially for use by Churchill and U.S. President Roosevelt. The green phone scrambled and encrypted messages via a machine on the floor.
 
Women were part of the underground work force that worked 18 hour days, then slept in dormitories in the bunker.  I listened to an interview with one of these women who remembered Churchill as an exacting and exhausting taskmaster.
 

The dormitories where most workers slept were in a "basement" below the working area, furnished with bunkbeds and non-flushing lavatories.  These were hated by everyone and added to the unpleasant, um, ambiance of the ventilation.

The rooms for those with more rank were small but there was a chamber pot furnished, a step up from the lavs downstairs.  This room was for a detective.

Churchill's room was nearly as basic.  However, he slept only a few nights here during the war, preferring to return to 10 Downing Street whenever possible.
 The bunker was built in total secret.  After it was occupied, it was reinforced with steel beams and a 5 foot layer of cement above, and one wonders how all this activity could have been missed.  It would never have survived a direct hit, but fortunately it never had to.
 
On August 15, 1945, the lights were turned off and workers dispersed to their peacetime lives. 
 The rooms were sealed off, many left exactly as they were that day, not to be opened again until 1948 when a museum was first proposed, finally opened to the public until 1984.

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   What an amazing opportunity to see history frozen in time. I was very affected by the atmosphere that was created by the museum in sights and sounds, and I could imagine the rest: the tension, the stale air, the smell, the claustrophobia of being deep underground while bombs are falling on the world above. I will never forget the hours I spent at this museum. 
 
Thanks for reading my blog.  I enjoy reading your comments!


24 comments:

  1. An excellent account of your visit to the museum. I find it fascinating to relive history in this way.

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  2. What a wonderful historical post and excellent photos ~ for OWT ~ Glad you got to visit sites you wanted to in Britain ~ Happy Week ~ carol ^_^

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  3. I have this on my list for my next London trip!

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  4. Love seeing and hearing about your trip to London!

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  5. What an amazing place, I'd love to see it. You captured it well, that's hard to do in an indoor space like this.

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  6. This is so cool! We did take the kids there when we visited London. Now that we're glued to Foyle's War, it's got even more meaning.

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  7. Great place and nice find ....
    Interesting post.

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  8. During the WW-II many underwent so much hardship that the present generation don't understand or appreciate. Its good that such museums are maintained to show the present world how it was.

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  9. Interesting and fascinating place! Great photos!

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  10. Interesting post, nice to see the pictures.

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  11. We are planning a trip back to the UK next year - may add this to the "visit" list.

    Glad London treated you well.

    Stewart M - Melbourne

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  12. Most interesting! We missed this one on our one-and-only London adventure...recently read a mystery novel about the young women who worked in the war rooms etc...really made me want to go back and now your post even more so.

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  13. What a great post! Very interesting. Thanks for sharing! Aloha

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  14. What an interesting place, where past met and made present.

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  15. That's very impressive! I didn't know that you can visit this place! I love the combination of making history and a chamber pot.

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  16. Thanks for this very interesting post!

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  17. Sounds an interesting place to visit... thanks for sharing..

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  18. Interesting post
    .
    ☸ڿڰۣڿڰۣ

    Have a nice day Greeting from Belgium
    Blog seniorennet.Be Louisette Blog

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  19. Your post took me down memory lane of all those years I took students to England in the summers. This was one of the sites we always visited. Nice shots. genie

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