Wednesday 17 April 2019

A Birthday Treat - Churchill War Rooms

Yesterday was my birthday (let's just say it was a significant number and leave it at that) and my treat for the day was a chance to visit the Churchill War Rooms in Westminster. We have been talking about coming here for a long time but have never seemed to get around to it. We joined IWM as members earlier in the year and this gave us free entry to the War Rooms and meant when we arrived we were able to jump the quite considerable queue (I only felt slightly bad about that). 

Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, began in 1938. Previously they had been used for storage and archiving but with conflict looking increasingly likely, this area was hastily converted into an operations centre. It was never actually meant to house the war cabinet but after Number 10 was damaged in an air raid meetings regularly took place here in the 'relative' safety of the underground complex. Contrary to popular belief the War Rooms are not bomb proof. Most of the complex is just 12ft underground and it was only later in the war that a 3m thick reinforced concrete slab was installed over the site. However, this would only have provided limited protection for bombs up to 500lb and anything bigger would have punched through easily.

The Cabinet room, left exactly as it was after the last meeting here was concluded. This room would have been smokey and airless when in use and Churchill didn't like being forced underground by the air raids. 

Outside the Cabinet room, a Marine stands guard. Dotted around the site there are gun racks in case of a surprise German parachute attack on the site. The corridors are designed to provide cover for defenders and everyone would have been expected to fight to defend the rooms. I'm pretty sure that had an assault taken place, Churchill, the old soldier would have gone down fighting. 

All the original signage is still in place. Security was of paramount concern as the sites main defence. However, it was realised that this improvised command centre was not really suitable if there were a direct hit by enemy bombs or in the event of a gas attack. 

Security was paramount at the site and all staff had a high level of clearance. 

One of Churchills cigars with the end chewed flat where it was clenched in his teeth. 

The original door to the Prime Minister's residence in Downing Street was made of wood and is now housed in the Churchill Museum inside the War Rooms. The door was replaced in the '90s with an armoured door following a mortar attack on No. 10 by the IRA. 

Looking up a section of the Metal and Concrete slab that was installed between 1940-44 over the whole site. It only gave limited protection but was better than nothing. 

The Chief of Staff's Conferance Room

A rare scene today, empty corridors. The museum has huge visitor numbers and it takes patience to wait for the hallways to clear and visualise the place as it was in wartime. 

The BBC Broadcasting room. A mobile unit was set up here. Churchill made several radio broadcasts from the comfort of his office down the hall and this unit would then relay them to Alexandra Palace for broadcast across the UK and to the BBC World Service. 

The Map room is the hub of the site. The global scope of the was can be appreciated here as maps of every theatre of the war cover all the walls. On the central desk phones connect directly to all branches of the military. The black phone with a green handle is a scrambler phone...hi-tech for the 40's.

A naval officer updates the map board. The North Atlantic map is covered in thousands of pinholes marking the movements of countless convoys that brought vital war materials and troops to the UK. 

Another view of the map room. 

I highly recommend the audio tour handsets that are offered to all visitors. Its included in the entrance fee and you can select the language of your choice. Each section is numbered and the tour is really good at giving a flavour of each room and what to look out for. The museum is very busy but if you listen to the whole tour and take your time to read the displays you can easily spend two or three hours here. 


  1. I still havnt been looks a 'must' even if its a busy attraction, great photo's

    1. Tickets are normally for specified time slots, presumably to even out visitor numbers during the day. But if your not in a rush you can often let bunched up groups pass through to experience the complex in peace.

  2. Replies
    1. Pleasure. If you like my museum posts keep watching, I'm doing four more military museums over the Easter weekend!

  3. Glad you had a good 50th, that sounds like a very entertaining place to visit!

    1. We are already talking about going back later in the year as I'm sure we missed a lot, despite taking our time.

  4. Very many happy returns and what a great treat.

  5. Very cool thanks for sharing. I would never have seen it without your post.

  6. Always a great visit ... I've visited the War Rooms 3 or 4 times already over the past 25 years. Always something new to discover.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always try to reply as soon as I can, so why not pop back later and continue the conversation. In the meantime, check out my YouTube channel Miniature Adventures TV