A hidden gem beneath the streets of London, take a step back in time and explore Winston Churchill’s secret underground headquarters during World War Two.
- The Cabinet War Rooms where Churchill and his cabinet planned the war effort
- Churchill’s bunker lets you discover how Churchill and his staff lived and operated underground during those dark days of war.
- The Churchill Museum which holds a host of fascinating artefacts and personal items from the lifetime of this iconic leader.
What to see and do
The Cabinet Room
From October 1940 this was the room where Churchill and his War Cabinet met to plot the Allied victory. To mark such a significant event the clocks in the room are set to 4:58 PM, the time the first meeting began. Part of the network of secret tunnels and rooms beneath London, feel and imagine the tension of this functional yet crucial room in the war effort. Fixtures such as the fire bucket behind Churchill’s chair, used as an ashtray, add connections to the past.
The Map Room
This room allows a rare look back in time as you view the charts and books on the central tables, displayed as they were left when the room was last used in 1945. The maps on the walls were used to chart progress around the world and contain the pin marks made from those plottings. The black phones with the green handles were scrambler phones which prevented someone listening in on top-secret conversations.
Transatlantic Telephone Room
A tiny room marked as a private toilet, it held the phone where Churchill would make his secret calls to the American President, Franklin Roosevelt. Visitors today get the chance to drop in on these calls, listening to recordings of conversations between the two leaders.
Churchill’s Bedroom and Study
Many of the staff would sleep on bunks in the underground bunker. Their bunks were not as pleasantly fitted out as Churchill’s bedroom though. However, he rarely slept overnight in this room, preferring 10 Downing Street instead. Yet he was known to hold impromptu meetings here, often following an afternoon rest. He would also make speeches from this room, broadcasting to the British public.
This award-winning interactive museum allows you a wonderful insight into Churchill’s life, including his two stints as Prime Minister. A highlight is a 15-meter interactive table, allowing you access to thousands of documents, images, films and animations. You can also hear some of Churchill’s famous speeches and see some of his earliest paintings and photographs.
Did you know: (4 interesting facts!)
- The seating arrangement in the Cabinet Room was set in a way which was deliberately confrontational. The three seats set opposite from where Churchill sat were for the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force. In a room which would already be full of tension, Churchill would still push his three commanders for details and answers, often beyond their comfort zones.
- Visitors will note the alcoves in the maze of tunnels in the underground bunker. However, these have no structural purpose. These alcoves were places for defending soldiers to take cover and fight back if the bunker was ever penetrated by invading enemy soldiers.
- The entrance to the War Rooms today is a fairly nondescript one beside the Clive Steps in London’s King Charles Street. Originally the entrance down to the bunker was from a building above the underground network. Access was controlled by a set of strict security measures.
- After his afternoon naps in his underground bedroom, Churchill would often hold meetings there while still in his dressing gown.
- June 1938 – New Public Offices building near Parliament with large basement chosen for bunker
- August 1939 – War Rooms become fully operational
- October 1940 – First of 115 war Cabinet meetings held
- August 1945 – Closed after 24 hour a day use during the war
- April 1984 – War Rooms reopened to public
- February 2005 – Churchill Museum opened by The Queen
- June 2012 – Redesign of entrance
Facilities and accessibility
The Churchill War Rooms are a branch of the Imperial War Museum with its own cafe and gift shop for visitors. Audio guides are included in your visit, available in a number of languages.
Non-flash photography is permitted, though there are no lockers to store bags or luggage as you walk the narrow corridors.
The War Rooms are wheelchair accessible throughout with step-free access available at the front entrance via Birdcage Walk.