Thursday, August 09, 2007

Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

When in London you can visit the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

Shortly after becoming Prime Minister in May 1940, Winston Churchill visited the Cabinet War Rooms to see for himself what preparations had been made to allow him and his War Cabinet to continue working throughout the expected air raids on London. It was there, in the underground Cabinet Room, he announced 'This is the room from which I will direct the war'.

The Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms share premises in Horse Guards Road opposite St. James's Park in central London, England which are part of the basement of what is now HM Treasury. The War Rooms were constructed in 1938 and were heavily used by Winston Churchill during World War II. Engineered as a bunker, the facility was equipped with a steel-reinforced "roof". However, the Cabinet War Rooms were vulnerable to a direct hit and were abandoned not long after the war. They were opened to the public in 1984 and are now maintained by the Imperial War Museum.

The section of the War Rooms open to the public is only a portion of a much larger facility. They originally covered three acres (12,000 m²) and housed a staff of up to 528 people, with facilities including a canteen, hospital, shooting range and dormitories. The centrepiece of the War Rooms is the Cabinet Room itself, where Churchill's War Cabinet met. The Map Room is located nearby, from where the course of the war was directed. It is still in much the same condition as when it was abandoned, with the original maps still on the walls and telephones lining the desks. Churchill slept in a small nearby bedroom although, according to the audio presentation in the museum, he only slept in the war rooms for three nights over the course of the war. One feature of the bunker was a telephone scrambler system that allowed Churchill to securely speak with President Roosevelt in the White House. The unit was concealed as the Prime Minister's lavatory.

The Map Room at the Cabinet War Rooms.The Cabinet War Rooms have recently undergone a major expansion and been rebranded as the "Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms". In 2003, nine rooms used by Churchill and his closest associates, including his wife, which had been stripped out after the war and used for storage, were added to the museum. These rooms are known as "The Churchill Suite". The Churchill Museum itself opened in February 2005. It is a chronological exhibition telling the story of Churchill's public and private life, using original and facsimile objects and documents and interactive display techniques. Entry to the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms is by combined ticket.

For more information click on the title for a link to the museums web site.