Churchill War Rooms, London

Churchill War Rooms, London (must see)

The Churchill War Rooms is a secret underground bunker situated beneath the former Office of Public Information in London, presently housing the Treasury. From this covert location, Winston Churchill directed British forces and delivered radio broadcasts to the nation during World War II. The unassuming entrance, tucked away at the base of Whitehall's Clive Steps on King Charles Street, is easy to miss. The Germans never anticipated that anyone would be audacious enough to hide the emergency government in such plain sight.

Constructed in 1938, the bunker underwent subsequent expansions and fortifications, including the installation of a bomb-resistant ceiling during the war. However, experts maintain that it was not entirely impervious to direct hits. The bunker is situated a mere 12 feet underground, in stark contrast to Hitler's hideout, which was 180 feet below ground.

Spanning over 30,000 square feet, the facility features offices, conference rooms, and sleeping quarters for the Wartime Cabinet and their families. When the war concluded, they simply departed, leaving the place virtually unchanged since 1945. The clocks within are permanently set to 4:58pm, the precise time of the first cabinet meeting held on October 15, 1940. In the Map Room, a manual calendar displays the date of August 16, 1945, marking the facility's final day as a strategic site, following Japan's official surrender.

Inside, you'll encounter black phones with distinctive green handles, representing cutting-edge 1940s technology. These scrambler phones, used for secure communication, emitted a white noise that rendered eavesdropping nearly impossible. They required up to 20 minutes to warm up before use. Meanwhile, the maps on the walls are riddled with tiny holes from pins used to monitor the movement of Allied forces and convoys across the seas. Some sections of the maps are so damaged that they've needed patching.

While Churchill only spent around three nights sleeping in this bunker, he often used the bedroom for afternoon naps and was known for conducting meetings here in various states of undress. Among the artifacts that provide a glimpse into his bunker life is a fire bucket which served as an improvised ashtray. Rumor has it that Marine guards used to sell Churchill's cigar stubs, left in the bucket, as souvenirs.

Beneath this secret bunker lies another one intended for maintenance personnel and support staff. This subterranean realm is typically off-limits to visitors, concealed by miles of insulation, pipes, wires, and cables. The tunnels extend beneath Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square, and other critical London locations. One of these underground spaces is believed to have served as Churchill's wine cellar.

Tip:
To bypass the queue outside, it's advisable to pre-book your ticket(s) online.
Plan for a minimum of slightly over an hour for the audio tour.
Keep in mind that there are limited dining options in the immediate vicinity.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in London. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Churchill War Rooms on Map

Sight Name: Churchill War Rooms
Sight Location: London, England (See walking tours in London)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

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