About The Cabinet War Rooms
Secreted beneath the streets of Westminster, the Cabinet War Rooms are part of the underground bunker complex now known as the Churchill War Rooms in London where Britain’s wartime government operated during World War Two.
Today, visitors can walk through the corridors from which Winston Churchill directed Britain and stop at the Churchill Museum. Open between 9.30am and 6pm, the museum tells a story through personal items and artefacts from Churchill’s childhood to his military and political career.
The Cabinet War Rooms history
In the 1930s, realising that there was likely to be a war, the government needed to build a bombproof shelter and cabinet war rooms from which to carry on business should there be damage to 10 Downing Street and Whitehall. The war rooms would also allow the proximity of the civilian government to the military authorities for fast decision-making.
Beneath the Treasury building there was already an extensive basement, so from 1938 the basement was expanded with a warren of tunnels and topped off with a thick concrete roof to withstand any enemy bombs.
The war rooms became fully operational in August 1939, a week before Britain declared war on Germany. During the Blitz, the complex was reinforced with a massive layer of concrete for added protection against bombing.
It was from the Cabinet War Rooms that Churchill, his cabinet and some 500 civil servants worked, and sometimes slept, throughout the war. There were 2 rooms of particular importance: the Map Room was constantly used for mapping intelligence to present to the King, Prime Minister and military chiefs; the Cabinet Room from which Churchill declared he would direct the war.
After 115 Cabinet meetings throughout the conflict, the last was held on 28 March 1945. The Cabinet War Rooms were left untouched from 1945 – after the Japanese surrender – when they were no longer needed. Dormant until the 1980s, the war rooms were restored and opened to the public in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher.
The Cabinet War Rooms today
While admission might seem a little steep, entry to the Cabinet War Rooms is well worth it to follow in the urgent footsteps of those directing Britain’s World War Two. Not all rooms are open to the public as the complex is believed to have around 200 rooms in total.
Those which are open to visitors include the Cabinet War Room, Churchill’s office and his bedroom. This underground office block even included a canteen and a hospital.
Visitors should allow at least 90 minutes to savour the atmosphere of this iconic World War Two site and navigate the winding corridors. Do not forget to find the Transatlantic Telephone Room, a tiny cupboard room disguised as a private toilet, where Churchill would speak to the US President in secret.
Getting to The Cabinet War Rooms
Located in Westminster, the heart of central London, the Cabinet War Rooms are easily reached on foot or via London’s extensive public transport system. The entrance is situated along King Charles Street off Parliament Street, seconds from 10 Downing Street.
Buses 3, 11, 12, 87, 88, 159, 453, N3, N11, N44, N87, N109, N136 and more stop at Westminster Station/Parliament Square – 2 minutes walk from the war rooms.
Otherwise, hop on the Circle, District or Jubilee tube lines to Westminster and walk the 5 minutes to the Cabinet War Rooms.