Luke Tchalenko for The New York Times
The Churchill War Rooms is a museum in London and one of the five branches of theImperial War Museum. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed a British government command centre throughout theSecond World War, and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill.
Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in theWhitehall area of Westminster, began in 1938. They became operational in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war in Europe. They remained in operation throughout the Second World War, before being abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan. After the war the historic value of the Cabinet War Rooms was recognised. Their preservation became the responsibility of the Ministry of Works and later the Department for the Environment, during which time very limited numbers of the public were able to visit by appointment. In the early 1980s the Imperial War Museum was asked to take over the administration of the site, and the Cabinet War Rooms were opened to the public in April 1984. The museum was reopened in 2005 following a major redevelopment as the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, but in 2010 this was shortened to the Churchill War Rooms.
Churchill War Rooms
Visit Churchill War Rooms to discover the original Cabinet War Rooms, the wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during the Blitz. Explore the historic rooms to experience the secret history that lives on underground. Discover the stories of those who worked underground as London was being bombed above them, and then find out more about the life and legacy of Winston Churchill in the interactive Churchill Museum.
The Cabinet War Rooms
Churchill’s wartime bunker is a fascinating piece of living history; an underground maze of rooms that once buzzed with round-the-clock planning and plotting, strategies and secrets. As you explore the historic rooms for yourself, you can imagine what life would have been like during the tense days and nights of the Second World War.
You’ll begin your journey at the War Cabinet Room, where Churchill and his inner circle plotted the war. See the chair in which Churchill presided over meetings, the scratch marks on the arms bearing witness to the intense pressure he was under at these times.
As you go deeper into the warren of rooms, you’ll discover how life and work continued underground, from top-secret conversations between Churchill and Roosevelt in the Transatlantic Telephone Room to more domestic concerns in the Churchills’ Kitchen.
In the Map Room, the informational hub of the entire site, everything has remained exactly as it was when the lights were finally switched off on 16 August 1945. The so-called ‘beauty chorus’ of colour-coded telephones; the books and documents piled on desks; the rationed sugar cubes found in an envelope belonging to Wing Commander John Heagarty; the wartime maps covering the walls, and the thousands of tiny pinholes dotting the progress of Allied ships across the Convoy Map.
Right next door to the Map Room, you’ll find Churchill’s Room, an office-bedroom boasting the most comfortable living conditions within the bunker. Churchill only slept overnight in this room on three occasions, but he did make four of his wartime speeches from the desk here, including his 11 September 1940 speech warning of Hitler’s plan to wage a war of terror against the United Kingdom.