Winston Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms

Churchill War Rooms map
Address:
Churchill War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, Westminster SW1A 2AQ
Tel:
Work 0207 930 6961
Web:
iwm.org.uk

Opening times and price

Opening hours:
9.30 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun); Last entry 1 hour before closing
Ticket cost:
Adults £21.00; Children £10.50 (5–15); Infants free entry (under-5); Family ticket £53.55
Visiting hours and entry charges are subject to change
Time required:
A typical visit to Churchill War Rooms lasts 2½-3 hours (approx)

Getting to Churchill War Rooms

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Buses:
3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 109, 148, 159, 184, 211, 453
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Trains:
St. James’s Park CRC DSC, Westminster CRC DSC JUB
The nearest train station to Churchill War Rooms is Westminster
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Churchill War Rooms Good for kids? Value for money? Worth a visit? 303

Craig recommends… Here’s my latest Churchill War Rooms review. If you’re interested in the Second World War then don’t miss the Imperial War Museum. The World War II battlecruiser HMS Belfast is also worth a visit. The RAF Museum has a great collection of Battle of Britain-era planes, and you can see where they cracked the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park. You might like to look at our page of military attractions in London.

The Churchill War Rooms are No.5 in our list of London’s best museums.

The Churchill War Rooms in London

History of the War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms provided the government with a safe place to direct the war during the darkest days of World War II. The underground rooms beneath Whitehall were never completely bombproof, but were the safest place for them to meet and sleep during the Blitz.

The warren of rooms are spread out beneath the modern-day Treasury building and Horse Guards and cover an area of three acres. They originally included a shooting range, canteen and even a hospital.

Cabinet War Room

The corridors are rather narrow and the rooms have been shorn of their doors so you can get a good look inside. As you stroll around the complex you’ll hear the atmospheric sounds of falling bombs, air-raid sirens, and some hurried steps clanging up the metal stairs.

Cabinet rooms under Whitehall

Map Room at the Cabinet War Room

The Cabinet Room was where Churchill met his Chiefs of Staff. The room is still decorated with the original maps and papers strewn across the tabletops to giver you a feeling for the atmosphere.

The Map Room was perhaps the most important room in the entire complex. You can still see the original pin-riddled charts on the wall – the same ones they were looking at on the day the war was finally won. The Map Room was closed down immediately after VE day and has laid undisturbed ever since.

Transatlantic Telephone Room

The Transatlantic Telephone Room was how the British government kept in touch with Washington. The room seems remarkably small and cramped nowadays, and that’s because it was – it used to be a broom cupboard!

The top-secret telephone inside was codenamed Sigsaly and had a giant scrambler located in the basement of Selfridges in Oxford Street, which enabled Churchill to talk to President Roosevelt in complete privacy.

Winston Churchill’s bedroom in the Churchill War Rooms

The Prime Minister’s Room was where Winston Churchill made his famous radio broadcasts to the nation. He slept inside it just a handful of times when bombing raids made it too dangerous to stay in No.10 Downing Street. You can still see his original bed, desk and troop maps pinned to the wall. You can even seen one of his famous cigars on the bedside table.

The Churchill Museum, at the Churchill War Rooms

Winston Churchill Museum

The Churchill Museum houses the largest collection of Churchill memorabilia in Britain, where you can hear his speeches and see many of his clothes and personal effects.

Craig’s review of the Churchill War Rooms

This review originally appeared in his blog

The Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall

I was expecting the Churchill War Rooms to be deep underground like a concrete bunker, ten miles down, reinforced with steel to withstand an atomic bomblast. But no, it was nothing like that. It was literally just ten steps down from the street. It seemed to be housed in the basement of the Treasury in Whitehall. If Hitler had aimed his bombs a bit better then I’m sure he could have collapsed the whole thing like a pack of cards.

Inside the Churchill War Rooms

The first thing they do is give you one of those big listening devices that looks like a 1980s mobile phone. I don’t usually bother listening to audioguides but the commentary really helped to bring the building alive. You can hear the day-to-day bustle of people going about their business alongside falling bombs and sirens wailing. Every time you pass a room there’s a number on the wall and you have to type it into this big phone to get the commentary. They explain what went on inside, what all the objects are, and even a few diary readings from the people who worked there during the war.

Inside the Cabinet War Rooms

It’s extremely atmospheric and it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like because the narrow corridors close it all in. It must have been pretty dark and smokey judging by all the 1940s fag packets on the tables. These days they’d probably make you stand outside in the street if you wanted a fag break, even whilst the bombs were falling, but judging by the amount of ashtrays on the desks everyone must have puffing away like a steam train.

The first room you come to is the best of the lot: the War Cabinet Room. It still has the same table and chairs where the big man sat, surrounded by his bigwigs and military men. Winston’s seat is in the middle and the rest are right on top of him – literally three-feet from his face.

One of the rooms inside the Churchill War Rooms

They play you a dramatised transcript of one of the meetings so you can hear what went on inside. It’s quite amusing to hear Churchill pretending to be deaf to fob off someone’s arguments.

Visiting the Churchill War Rooms tour

Then you go past the secret telephone scrambler room, which was cunningly disguised as the Prime Minister’s personal toilet. It even has one of those ’engaged’ locks on the door to keep people out. I wonder what people thought when he came out two hours later?

After that you have to make a detour through the Churchill Museum containing lots of glass cabinets and push-button TV screens with iconic items like his black bowler hat and cigar, and even his Dirty Harry style handgun (it’s about a foot long!). They showcase a couple of his watercolour paintings as well, but luckily for us he was a lot better at politics than he was at painting.

Inside the Winston Churchill Museum

You can even sit down a watch a movie of his State Funeral, if you want. It’s quite interesting to see all the ageing names like Charles De Gaulle and Clement Atlee shuffling up the steps of St. Paul’s to pay their respects.

Map Room at the Churchill War Rooms

After the detour into the museum you rejoin the tour and see the nostalgic kitchen and bedrooms. Churchill’s bedroom even includes the same old battle maps he had pinned to the wall, plus a cigar by his bed (who takes a cigar to bed?).

Chief of Staff’s Conference Room

After that you come to the Chief of Staff’s Conference Room and historic Map Room, still decked out with the same pin-pierced military maps and Bakelite telephones, plus some waxwork soldiers acting out their roles, so it looks as if the staff are still going about their business.

 
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  • ian meyer – “Very atmospheric. I loved seeing winston churchill's little bedroom. We're not talking the ritz here, it's just a concrete room with gray walls and some okay furniture in it. You can just imagine him sitting in there with teh sound of bombs falling twenty feet above his head, because thats all it was -- about twenty feet. It's a miracle the old guy was blown to bits he must have had god smiling on him. If you go then I recommend listeing to the earphone commentry, because that adds a lot of the atmosphere with the sounds of what it must have been like to work there -- the hustle and bustle and phones ringing and sirens wailing. You also learn what each room is for, and you could never have guessed on your own. The top secret telephone room for example -- thats a broom cupboard! The kind of room that you would just walk past without a thought if you didnt have the headphones.”
  • peter – “This is a top notch day out! I was amazed at how unsafe the place was. These days they would probably be in a nuclear bomb proof bunker a mile under ground, or buried inside a mountain. But back then all the had was some concrete walls in the basement of the foreign office. It wasn't bomb proof at all! One bomb in the right place and they would all have been dead for sure. But that it makes it all the more remarkable because you can imagine them walking around working whilst hearing the air raid sirens wailing all night and bombs dropping just 20 feet above their heads. That is one of the things that I liked about the earphones -- you could hear the sirens and bustle. I think they should play those noises over the speakers all the time, whilst you are walking around. It would add a lot more atmosphere I think.”

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Events at the Churchill War Rooms

  From Churchill War Rooms Westminster

If you enjoy this then try: HMS Belfast (catch the tube from Westminster to HMS Belfast); Imperial War Museum (walk it in 20 mins or catch a train from Westminster to Imperial War Museum) and National Army Museum (catch the tube from Westminster to National Army Museum).

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