Churchill War Rooms is one of London’s must-see attractions, which has only recently opened its doors to public. Make sure you don’t miss this exhibition – for a limited time only, you will be able to explore the Second World War’s impact on London life with a unique art exhibition housed within the War Rooms. Wartime London: Art of the Blitz features works by Henry Moore; Eric Ravilious; Evelyn Dunbar and more.
The Churchill War Rooms is one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed a British government command centre throughout the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill.
During the Second World War, a group of basement offices in Whitehall served as the centre of Britain’s war effort. The complex, known as the Cabinet War Rooms, was occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Following the devastation of the First World War, military planners feared up to 200,000 casualties from bombing in the first week of a future war.
Plans to evacuate the prime minister, cabinet and essential staff from London were drawn up as early as the 1920s, but concern that Londoners would feel abandoned if the prime minister and government were in a safe place, and issues about the speed of evacuation, led to a search for an emergency shelter in central London.
In June 1938 the New Public Offices building was selected. It was near Parliament, with a strong steel frame and a large basement. The basement was adapted to provide meeting places for the War Cabinet during air raids and also housed a military information centre based around a ‘Map Room’. Here, vital information for King George VI, Prime Minister Churchill and the armed forces was collected.
The Cabinet War Rooms became fully operational on 27 August 1939, a week before Britain declared war on Germany. Churchill’s War Cabinet met here 115 times, most often during the Blitz and the later German V-weapon offensive.
The Cabinet War Rooms were in use 24 hours a day until 16 August 1945, when the lights were turned off in the Map Room for the first time in six years.