"This is the Room From Which I Will Lead the War"
As clouds of war once again started to gather, preparations had to be made for the possibility that Germany would attempt to invade Britain. In 1938 steps were taken to prepare a base of operations for the Prime Minister and his key staff. The facility had to be near the seat of government and it needed to be as secure as possible. It also had to be built in complete secrecy.
The selected location was the basement storage rooms under the Office of Works and the Board of Trade.
The project was completed August 27, 1939.
World War II began two weeks later.
Britain's newly appointed Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, hated the basement war rooms, but on October 15 (the day after a bomb destroyed much of Number 10 Downing Street) the decision was made to meet in the Cabinet War Room more often. In fact he would spend much of the next 6 years in this secret enclave directing the British war effort.
The building was upgraded throughout the war. During 1940, using American Concrete pump technology, and in complete secrecy. Yet, this included supporting the existing building to insert a new steel structure and a new horizontal blast floor composed of as much as 6' of concrete.
The War Rooms included the Transatlantic Telephone Room that Churchill could use to talk to FDR. It was concealed to the war rooms staff as being the only flush toilet in the compound (and therefore used exclusively by the Prime Minister).
Radio Gear in the War Rooms
The encryption equipment made by Bell Labs needed to encrypt phone transmissions weighed 40 tons and was installed secretly in the basement of Selfridges Department Store (Harry Selfridge, an American, was eager to illustrate his support for the British war effort both overtly and discretely).
The War Cabinet Room
The Map Room
A 1940 Expansion Added Space
For A Dining Room.
The Churchill Museum
(With Many Interactive Displays Churchill's Entire Life is Profiled)
Churchill Photographed During the War Years
Although operations in the war rooms ceased on March 28 1945, the rooms were not formally closed until August 16, 1945. At that time lights were extinguished and doors were locked.
In 1970's the Imperial War Museum (IWM) was asked to preserve the war rooms. Upon inspection the war rooms were found to be in a state of arrested decay.
Perhaps one of the more obscure tours in London, I found it a fascinating view into London and its most charismatic leader.
Roadboy's Travels © 2014