I like museums, and I like seeing battlefields. The War Cabinet Rooms
is a museum which commemorates the place where people told the people on battlefields what to do. It is actually really interesting, since Churchill himself was here, hunkered down with his commanders, planning the defense of his nation, and eventually the assault on the Axis.
The War Cabinet Rooms is a museum in the heart of London. This is the place where Churchill and his commanders coordinated British forces, first in the defense of the Island during the Battle of Britain, and then later the offensive into Normandy and beyond.
Needless to say, the place was a big deal at the time, and incredibly secret. In fact, it depended on its secrecy for survival, since early in the war when the Luftwaffe was bombing the everliving snot out of London, they didn’t even bother bombproof this place. (They did later in the war).
This is not just a big room where men looked at recreations of battlefields on big draft tables. (Which we are now looking at recreations of…lots of recreating going on here.) It’s a whole complex and feels more like the kind of place James Bond would fight his way out of then would take his orders from. (I know, Bond is an anachronistic reference. But he had to have fought in World War II, right? Bond fighting Hitler? Tell me you wouldn’t go see that).
Here’s what Fodor’s has to say about the War Rooms: “It was from this small warren of underground rooms – beneath the vast government buildings of the Foreign Office 0 that Winston Churchill and his team directed troops in World War II. Designed to be bombproof, the whole complex has been preserved almost exactly as it was when the last light was turned off at the end of the war. Every clock shows almost 5 PM, and the furniture, fittings, and paraphernalia of a busy, round-the-clock war office are in sity, down to the colored map pins.”
Churchill and his wife and a wide variety of staff including some generals, Cabinet Secretaries, Royal Marine guards and typists, lived there for months at a time at various points during the war. It is all set up to look like it did during the height of its use. There are mannequins “working” in the various rooms, wearing the appropriate uniforms, using the actual telephones and other equipment with the actual maps still on the walls.
You can see the room where the transatlantic telephone was installed that allowed Churchill to talk to Roosevelt. On the door it simply says “Keep out.” Apparently most of the personnel never stopped to ask what was behind that particular door. There is a sign in one of the hallways that was updated daily describing the weather outside – the day I was there was “Fine and Warm.” The staff meeting rooms are all set up ready for use and a glass wall allows you to see into Mrs. Churchill’s tiny kitchen. All really fascinating.
If your in London, add the War Cabinet Rooms to your rainy day activities list. Since it is London, that list is going to need to be pretty long.