Did you know… One of the maps in the Map Room contains an amusing doodle of Hitler knocked flat on his back. It is rumoured to have been drawn by Churchill himself.
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The Churchill War Rooms (once known as the ‘Cabinet War Rooms’) played host to Winston Churchill and his wartime government during the dark days of World War II. Safe in their underground rooms beneath London’s Whitehall, they met and slept in bunkers to plan Hitler’s defeat.
The War Rooms can be found ten feet below London, near Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. They stretch over an area of three acres, and include a shooting range, canteen and hospital. The vast majority of the rooms are rather routine, and tickets for the tour are limited to those involved in wartime planning.
The corridors are rather narrow – but the rooms have been rid of their doors so you can peer inside. As you meander through the complex the sound of falling bombs, air-raid sirens, and the hurried steps on metal stairs punctuates the air.
The Prime Minister’s Room was where Churchill made his broadcasts to the nation. He frequently slept inside when the bombing raids made it too dangerous to get to Downing Street. Included are his original bed, desk and maps upon the wall. You can even seen one of his famous cigars on the bedside table.
The Cabinet Room was where Churchill met his Chiefs of Staff. The room has been festooned with the original papers strewn across the tabletops to get a feeling for the atmosphere.
The Map Room was perhaps the most important room in the whole complex. You can still see the original pin-riddled charts on the wall. It was closed down immediately after VE day, and has remained undisturbed ever since.
The Transatlantic Telephone Room was how London kept in touch with Washington. The room seems remarkably small nowadays, and that’s because it was – it used to be a broom cupboard!
The top-secret telephone installation (codenamed Sigsaly) had a scrambler located in the basement of Selfridges in Oxford Street, and enabled Churchill to talk to Roosevelt in complete privacy.
The complex also incorporates the Churchill Museum, containing transcripts of his famous speeches (played for the visitor as they stand in front of the TV screen). Footage from his State funeral is included too, as are many of his clothes and personal effects.
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