Tucked underneath the offices along Whitehall at the far end of St James’ Park lies a subtle entrance to what is essentially a time machine.
A staircase leads to the perfectly preserved underground war rooms of Winston Churchill’s war cabinet and the place at the helm of the allied effort during WW2. It was from here that Churchill ran the war and has been left for the most part untouched* since it was last in use in 1945.
*Well except for the addition of a cafe – it wouldn’t be a museum without a cafe.
Thanks to Imperial War Museums, the public can meander around Churchill’s war bunker and marvel at the rooms left as they were when the doors closed for the final time on VE Day.
The map room lies untouched with the movements of allied forces still plotted on the maps that sprawl across walls with reams of cotton and pins. Walking around its hard to believe that these stuffy rooms were the thumping heart of the war effort, but as bombs fell on London above it served its purpose and is still standing today.
The team who worked in the subterranean centre closed the door to the war rooms on VE day and the bunker’s existence remained hush hush for a short amount of time until it’s secrets were exposed at a press conference in 1948. But it took another 40 years before it was adapted for external eyes and opened to the public.
Alongside the bunker and its rooms – including the phone room disguised as a toilet which Churchill used to call US President Roosevelt, the aforementioned map room and war cabinet room – is a museum about the man himself.
If you’re a newly found Winton Churchill fan-girl thanks to recent Oscar fodder, Darkest Hour, this will give you a look at the man behind the cigar, bowler hat and peace sign gesture.
Verdict? At £21 it’s one of the pricier museums in London, but essentially it isn’t a museum. It’s a preserved time capsule of wartime history and gives a more intimate look at life in blitzed London through the eyes of those in charge.
Visit the IWM Churchill War Rooms website here for more info.