I still have SO much to share with you guys from my trip to London last month! I shared Part One of the adventure which was an overview (but pretty detailed) of our first 3 days in the city. There were a couple stops we made that I thought deserved a little more spotlight, the Churchill War Rooms being one of them!
I’m a big history buff (especially concerning WWII), so when I discovered that there was a secret underground location that Prime Minister (at the time) Winston Churchill created to manage war operations, I couldn’t add it to our itinerary fast enough! Big thanks to the staff for providing me a complimentary ticket to visit and share my experience with you!
The Cabinet War Rooms were established in 1939 and closed in 1945, after the War ended. This underground location was kept secret throughout the entire war to ensure a safe place for the British government to strategize during the war, while the horrible bombings were going on. Located just around the corner from 10 Downing Street (where the Prime Minister lives), this location was strategically chosen so the PM was close to home and also for it’s proximity to Parliament. The entrance that you see above is the “tourist” entrance, one that most definitely didn’t exist back in the day.
The Rooms were also to act as a bomb shelter, although it was later discovered that had a bomb landed in the buildings above it, the staff might not have been as safe as they believed. During WWII, 60,595 British civilians were killed (possibly more), and as you all know from your history classes, this was an extremely rough time in the world – to say the least.
The main meeting room is still well in tact. A seating chart was posted next to the window this room was housed behind, indicating all of the members of this core group and their role. Oh just figuring out how to end the war and save the world, no pressure.
Here’s a glimpse of the main hallway and an entry point that one of the staff might have come in/out of. There was also another layer of underground we walked by (at least the entrance), where regular staff (not the higher ups) would sleep if needed overnight. It didn’t look like a place I’d want to be. EVER. Apparently you couldn’t stand up straight since it was such a small space – you’d have to bend down or crawl. And there were supposedly rats, there was no real ventilation, and it smelled. That definitely wouldn’t be a job for me.
Another door in the hallway led to the Prime Minister (Winston Churchill’s) daytime office when in the underground War Rooms. There’s a sign over the door that reads “Quiet Please.” I can imagine the amounts of concentration one would need to oversee this type of effort.
A bit comical to see – the weather reporting contraption. Being WAY before the digital age, the weather was updated manually on wooden slates. Since these rooms were underground, it was helpful to know what kind of weather one would be dealing with upon stepping outside.
At this point in touring the War Rooms, we took a detour to a separate (very large) room that was dedicated to Winston Churchill’s life. This wasn’t originally part of the War Rooms, but definitely an awesome education on WC. From his childhood to days as PM, to everything that came after his primary days of leadership, it was incredible. We spent a solid hour plus in here and definitely could’ve wandered even longer. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos to share with you of the room since it was so dark, but all the more reason for you to add a visit to your bucket list!
So back to the original War Rooms we went…
There were several rooms down another hallway where the main staff members would sleep. Most of them had the same standard set up. A bed, desk, chair, and dresser. Each person who worked in the War Rooms never knew how long they’d be down there each day. In fact, some of the video testimonies from former workers or their families, indicated that sometimes it’d be days or a week at a time that they’d be bunkered underground working (but again, no one on the outside knew the truth behind the work being done or where the “office” was).
On the back of one door we were able to see an array of old-fashioned keys, used for each of the rooms, ranging from meeting rooms to bedrooms to offices.
It’s amazing how well-preserved the War Rooms have been, especially after all of these years! I love that wax people were also placed throughout, giving an insight to how it might’ve actually looked when someone was in a room.
Winston’s bedroom/office combo was definitely the nicest one of the bunch. Understandably.
Our experience touring the Churchill War Rooms in London was truly amazing and unforgettable. Definitely one of the highlights on the trip – we couldn’t stop talking about them. And although this wasn’t a place we were well educated about beforehand, we learned SO much more than we’d ever imagined in just a few short hours. But be warned, you could easily find yourself spending a solid half day here. Keep that in mind if/when planning a trip, but definitely add it as a stop next time you find yourself in London!
Tickets for the Churchill War Rooms include an audio headset tour (which is extremely helpful.. and available in several languages), and are £18 (about $27) for adults and £9 (about $14) for kids. Note: I say “about” because the USD price will fluctuate based on the exchange rate.
Have you visited the Churchill War Rooms?