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What Are the Churchill War Rooms?

Sculpture of Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.
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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 March 2014
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Established in 1984, the Churchill War Rooms constitute a museum located on King Charles Street in London, England. Dedicated to the life and times of Winston Churchill, it is one of many imperial museums in Great Britain. It is made up of an underground section that housed British officials during World War II and contains a popular biographical museum of the former prime minister. Constructed in the summer of 1938, it served as a way to facilitate discussions among the chiefs of staff of the British armed forces. It takes at least 90 minutes to tour the War Rooms, and visitors often spend at least half a day to see everything it has to offer.

During the Blitz bombing of 1940, the building was reinforced with 5 feet (about 1.5 m) of concrete. Abandoned at the end of the war, the Churchill War Rooms would not be accessible until Britain’s first female prime minister came into office. A great admirer of Churchill, Margaret Thatcher made it possible for the Churchill War Rooms museum to be opened to the public.

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The museum cost around $9.4 million US Dollars (USD) to construct and was funded by mostly private donations. Mainly known as an interactive museum, more than 300,000 annual visitors attend workshops, lectures, and programs there. Using cutting-edge technology and multimedia displays, the Churchill War Rooms bring the former prime minster to life. There is a lifeline exhibit where visitors can learn what Churchill did every year of his life. Some interesting highlights include how he spent his time as a soldier and a journalist before he started his career as Britain’s most beloved prime minister. Recommended by the Kids in Museum charity, the Churchill War Rooms museum offers many information resources for all ages. It also puts into context how British lives were affected by the bomb raids, in addition to explaining how decision-making processes were made.

Commemorating the 70th anniversary when the Churchill War Rooms became operational, a display focuses on the personal lives of the men and women who worked in the Cabinet War Rooms. It describes a grueling 14-hour day of work while bombs were dropped from German planes. Visitors can listen to personal accounts from that time period. Monthly programs include an open box display, where families can handle wartime memorabilia and artifacts. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., and admission is free for children under the age of 16. Free audio guides are available for all visitors.

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titans62
Post 4

I have to wonder if there are other places in London in the area that were also utilized by people like Churchill in order to make decisions during the war time?

I also have to wonder exactly who was in these rooms besides Churchill and what significant war time decisions were made in these rooms during the course of the war?

These are all questions that are important to be answered in the eyes of normal everyday citizens and they were not for the forty years in which the war rooms were not made available to the public. Now that they are I find it quite amazing what one can learn by visiting these rooms and how much one wants to learn more once one leaves.

jcraig
Post 3

@JimmyT - That is quite odd I have to say. I really have to wonder why they did not see these rooms as being historically significant.

I could understand them closing them soon after the war if they wanted to keep some things a secret for the time being, but one would think that forty years was too long to keep these rooms away from the public.

It could just be that they did not see the significance of these rooms, as they chose to instead focus on the people, like Churchill, that made the decisions in the rooms as opposed to the places that they occurred.

I am really glad they opened these rooms up to the public and I have to say that I will definitely be visiting them on my future trip to London.

JimmyT
Post 2

@Izzy78 - You are absolutely correct. What I find to be quite amazing is that the rooms would be closed after the war and that it was completely neglected forty years as they did not seem to care for the historical significance of these rooms.

I am glad that Margaret Thatcher had the knowledge and appreciation of history to see that these rooms were in fact very important to the modern 20th century history of England and that it was almost a necessity for the government to educate its people on the significance of these rooms by turning them into a place of commemoration of history and a place where some of the greatest decisions concerning the country occurred during a very troubled time of invasion.

Izzy78
Post 1

I have to say that I am glad that in the 1980's they saw the historical significance of a room used by one of the great influential leaders of modern times.

I was enthralled as a kid whenever I heard stories about the Churchill War Rooms as I always found it to be quite amazing that as his country was literally being raided and attacked he was able to still at least keep control of his country and was still able to lead from these bunkers he had created.

One has to realize that this was where the government was run during WWII and that is where the great leaders of England stayed in safety in order to make sure that they were able to properly run their government.

I find it to be a great thing that people are able to view these rooms and be free to tour this place in history that was so important.

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