Not as conspicuous as the nearby Houses of Parliament or Westminster Abbey, Churchill’s War Rooms is a must see for anyone interested in where Britain’s top brass and politicians directed the Second World War from.
Even before the outbreak of war, it was decided that these decision makers wouldn’t abandon London and its people, and so the basement of the Office of Works building opposite St James’s Park, was adapted and strengthened to suit its new purpose.
Officially known as the ‘New Public Offices‘, but unofficially as just ‘George St’, the corridors of this subterranean nerve centre became a bunker, with a cabinet war room, private rooms for the prime minister and chiefs of staff, a map room where plans were worked out, and several other rooms that would help to facilitate the war effort.
From 27th August 1939 until the lights finally went out on 15th August 1945, a total of 115 cabinet meetings were held here.
At the end of the war the rooms were left just as they were, and in 1948 they were given the status of a historic site. In 1981, the incumbent Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, decreed that the public should have access to this historic site and the Imperial War Museum opened the doors to the Cabinet War Rooms in 1984. In 2005 the Churchill Museum was added.
It’s not particularly cheap to visit, but you certainly won’t feel short changed if you have an interest in this part of Britain’s history. The corridors and rooms are fascinating, and the Winston Churchill Museum includes many of his personal items and also an interactive ‘Lifeline’ of the ‘greatest person in British history’ (BBC television poll in 2002).
It’s suggested that you allow an hour and a half to visit this museum, but I would suggest that you allow more than that.
Photography is allowed, but not always easy due to the nature of the building and the numbers of visitors if you choose a busy time to come.
All the relevant information about opening times and entry fees are on the website, but remember that if you arrive in London by train there is often a 2for1 offer available.
I have no hesitation in recommending this remarkable, authentic and historically interesting museum.