Like HMS Belfast, which I visited earlier the same day, the Churchill War Rooms are part of the IWM, and I visited one Sunday to take advantage of my Tesco Clubcard free ticket. Located beneath the streets of Westminster, these are the original Cabinet War Rooms used to protect the Government from attack during the Second World War. Initially I was just thankful to get out of the heat (the rooms were lovely and cool), but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit for its own sake.
The first important room I came to was the Cabinet meeting room. Not all meetings during the war were held here, but over 100 were.
I then came across the weather guide, designed to let those underground know what it was like outdoors. Famously, the guide was changed to ‘windy’ during air raids.
There were a surprising amount of corridors, with random doors leading off them at various points.
About halfway through the tour there was a Churchill Museum, examining the wartime Prime Minister’s life and career. I learnt several interesting things – I was surprised to hear that he was so radical early in his career.
After the Cabinet and a number of staff began to use the underground War Rooms, the ceiling was reinforced to provide protection in case of air raids. However, the bunker was still not completely secure and a direct hit would have destroyed it. Luckily, this never happened.
Members of staff worked day and night underground, sometimes even sleeping here.
Churchill had his own room in the bunker, complete with wall maps. He didn’t often sleep here, however.
The Churchill War Rooms are open seven days a week (except 24-26 December inclusive). I definitely recommend a visit – there is a surprising amount to see and take in, and the War Rooms are crucially important to the history of 20th century Britain.
Address: Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AQ
Opening Hours: 9.30am-6pm
Prices: Adult £18, Concession £14.40, Child £9; under-5s free