Few would dispute that Winston Churchill’s unique leadership and ability to distil Britain’s fortitude during World War II played a major part in the victory against Hitler and Nazi Germany, making the War Rooms all the more appealing for anyone with a fascination for the era.
Beneath Westminster, the Cabinet War Rooms were at the heart of Churchill’s wartime strategies. They were built and completed a week before war broke out. Here, a devoted team of men and women received key information from critical locations all over Europe and north Africa, helping the Prime Minister and his inner circle to plan their moves, and keeping the King and the armed forces fully briefed on daily progress.
Now part of the Imperial War Museum, the Churchill War Rooms have been preserved as they were in 1945. See the Map Room as it would have been, operating day and night during the conflict, and get a sense of this underground warren at its most frenetic. As well as the key aspects of wartime government revealed here, it’s in the little details that you get a sense of life in the bunker. For example, there was a daily-updated weather noticeboard so that workers knew what was going on above ground. During air raids, the notice would be changed to ‘windy’ as a joke.
There is a lot to take in, so you can expect your visit to last about an hour and half, but there’s also the Churchill Museum to explore, with audio guides available in a wide range of languages.
It may be a bunker, but there’s room down here for a café, too, and in true Brit spirit, the menu includes lots of classic scoff, from pies and stews to sarnies and cakes. Go on, have a slice of London Stout Gingerbread or Derbyshire Bakewell Tart. These days, happily, rationing has long gone, and the food tastes great.