Bunkering Down

 
The Churchill Cabinet War Rooms is the underground bunker from which Winston Churchill and his generals directed the British fight in WWII. It was built, in anticipation of the bombing that was sure to come when Germany declared war on England, beneath an office building near Downing Street.
 
The girls thought it sounded interesting, so we took the tour. The underground rooms have been faithfully restored based on WWII photographs. Some rooms were simply shut up and abandoned at the end of the war and their furnishings and maps are the originals. It’s a fascinating walk through the technology (very low) and trials (chamber pots) of those who led the defense of England during the months of The Blitz, the devastating "buzz-bomb" missile attacks, and the long road to victory.
 
The picture shows The Map Room; notice the heavy timbers that were installed to help support the 6-foot thick cement slab that was hastily poured above the basement rooms. At the time, no one knew if the bunker would actually survive a direct hit on the building above. Luckily, they never had to find out; apparently the location of the bunker was never discovered by German spies.
 
The bunker occupants included Churchill and his wife, his civilian advisors, his generals, military officers and staff, cooks, communications staff, and secretaries. Churchill refused to flee London and even occassionally watched the bombing raids from the rooftop of the office building above! He also went out after the raids into flattened neighborhoods to offer consolation to survivors.
 
The guided audio tour that came with our admission tickets provided all of the details, including the location the secret room that Churchill used for encrypted phone conversations with US President Roosevelt. So secret that most of the staff thought the room was a private flush toilet for Churchill’s personal use! Excerpts of Churchill’s speeches, the wail of air raid sirens, and the sounds of bombs exploding above are all piped in and add to the experience.
 
My daughters found it very interesting and it’s another fine tourist attraction for you to put on your list! P.S. Not for the claustrophobic, however.
 
 
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