By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
On our 2019 D Day Tour, our first visit will be to the Churchill War Rooms. This is a fascinating exhibit that will help anyone who visits this place to learn about the facilities and conditions that PM Churchill and his war cabinet used to decide how to win the Battle of Britain and WW II.
The visit here on the one way route is self guided with an excellent audioguide–each room has an account of an actual person who worked in this complex.
So, let’s explore this underground bunker maze of 27 rooms, learn about the most important rooms, and learn a little more about Winston Churchill, the war-time Prime Minister (PM).
The map room was the central place in the Churchill war rooms where the daily intelligence of the war was monitored. It was operational 24 hours a day from 27 August 1939 until the end of the war. When the war ended, the room was left just as it was on that day.
From this room, a daily intelligence briefing was prepared for the Prime Minster, the King and the military chief of staffs.
Here is a picture of the map room:
Although only used once until the appointment of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, in May 1940, he decided to use this area to direct the war. He held 115 cabinet meetings during the course of the war (the last was on 28 March 1945). From these meetings, the key leaders developed the plans for the conduct of the war. This is what the room looks like:
Transatlantic Cable Room
This room allowed secure access to the US. It was first used in 1943 so Churchill could talk to President Roosevelt. They used a code scrambling encrypted telephone.
It also provided communications to other wartime leaders and facilities. This room looks like this:
Prime Minister’s Bedroom
As well as a place to rest, this also served as his office. The BBC installed radio address equipment, so Churchill could address the people of his country. He made 4 wartime broadcasts from this room. Although this was equipped from Churchill to sleep, he preferred to sleep in his 10 Downing Street residence and seldom sleep in this actual room. Here is a good photo of this room:
The Churchill Museum
This area contains displays highlighting the life of Churchill. The displays are quite good and interesting about the life of this British statesman. A lot of information is contained in this large room–it is a really honest look at the successes and failures of this giant of the British nation.
Here is a photo of part of this large display (look carefully at the bottom to see the war cabinet room in action and his famous quote “This is the room which I’ll direct the war”:
Many others had to support this 27 room complex. There were dormitories for both men and women and kitchen facilities. Many women supported this effort as switch board operators or typists–they often worked 16 hour shifts. The tiny, cramped area is reminder of the stark life during the war–the darkness and isolation of this area was so complete, they even posted weather notices of the outside to help make their mole-like exsistenace seem a little more bearable. Here is a photo of the kitchen area:
My Final Thoughts
Wow, what a fascinating place! I have seldom been able to step back in history and actually be able to clearly envision exactly what it would be like to live in those troubled times. A visit here is a look at this unique command center and it is easy to understand the importance it played in winning WW II.
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HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:
- AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
- Viking River Cruise Specialist
- Scenic River Cruise Specialist
- Emerald Waterways Specialist
- Avalon Waterways Specialist
- Brit Agent