As Part One of this series attests, the Churchill War Rooms in London are a fascinating attraction for history buffs, Churchill admirers, and families alike. I particularly enjoyed them because of their focus on a distinctive and important historical figure, and– as you’ll see in this post– their enduring atmosphere of the Forties.
The War Rooms remain almost exactly as they were at the height of the war; with bare yet practical fixtures and few decorations even in the bedrooms prepared for various politicians and government workers. But I love the practicality of ’40s interior design, and seeing these rooms made it easier to imagine what the atmosphere of war must have been like.
Many important calls must have come through on this telephone…
There were many bedrooms like this in the War Rooms, which would have housed politicians safe underground in the event of German attacks
Most of the bedrooms were essentially identical, with simple wooden furniture, a navy blue bedspread, and no unnecessary luxuries whatsoever. But one bedroom had a bit of individuality– it was the room set aside for Clementine Churchill, the wife of Sir Winston.
Clementine Churchill’s bedroom had charm reminiscent of an English country house, with chintz and traditional furniture
The rest of the rooms were for work, not relaxation. The conference room for the Chiefs of Staff was unadorned but had an imposing atmosphere. Amazing to think of the plans and discussions that must have occurred in this room!
It was here that the Chiefs of Staff would make plans in the midst of German air raids and general chaos
One of my favourite rooms was the map room. As you would expect, it contained maps– they plastered the walls, and the maps themselves were plastered with pinholes and strings to denote the location of various fronts, convoys, and units over the progression of the war. The maps were very beautiful, and it was rather breathtaking to see all the events of the war represented in one single room which was so important in WWII.
This section of the map shows Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union– significant to me because of my writing!
I made sure to find Stalingrad on the map, since it was at Stalingrad that the Germans went no further.
A detailed tally of flying bombs was kept in the map room– the War Rooms were really on top of everything!
The authentic atmosphere, kept so close to what it was 70 years ago, really made the Churchill War Rooms something special. It was quite moving to be there in the corner of an old-fashioned room once all the audioguide-led tourists had passed by; and to just think of the history that came to pass there. I loved the War Rooms, and would go back there any day!
A representation of part of the map room at the height of the war