Churchill War Rooms

During World War Two, the offices of the British wartime cabinet secretly remained in central London in an inconspicuous basement. The rooms were shut up after the war and the most important rooms remained largely intact, such as this central planning room.


This preservation seems to have been a deliberate act intended to memorialize Great Britain’s finest leaders during its finest hour. Both the guide and the audio tour stressed the danger of simply staying in this location; even with the protection of several feet of concrete and steel, the building was still vulnerable to bombs. It was in the middle of the city and German bombs had grown large enough to cause massive damage. Yet, the British leaders stayed. Churchill even ventured above frequently to show he was not afraid. It is not difficult to detect a desire to glorify the determination and resilience of British leaders, particularly Churchill. It is not difficult to detect feeling that perhaps the lack of any direct hits was a providential intervention. Overall, it was surreal to think that the men we have learned about in class, most notably, of course, Churchill himself, roamed these very halls and directed the whole of the war. I thought that the absolute preservation, audio tour, and occasional mannequins gave a good sense about what things must have been like during the war. However it felt very removed and I would have liked to see more ways to interact with the history, perhaps staff stationed in the areas to interact more directly with visitors rather than just the audio tour. The Churchill Museum was probably the highlight of the War Rooms for me. There were many interesting artifacts, as well as film and interactive portions.

After having been in Britain for only three days, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the British are immensely proud of their contribution to World War II. This remembrance seems to be strongest about the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, and the Battle of the Atlantic, when Britain stood more or less alone against the seemingly invincible juggernaut of Germany. There are many monuments about these topics all over the city. They are also necessarily very reverent towards the men of the Merchant Marine, who gave their lives trying to supply Britain with vital supplies, and the RAF pilots who defended the islands from the Luftwaffe assault. The one below is a list of names of all those who lost their lives at sea, similar to the Vietnam War Memorial in the United States.

IMG_3055The British people have taken to heart Winston Churchill’s famous quotation: “Never in the field of Human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” No less immortalized is Churchill himself; even during the later years of his life, he became a legendary figure and remains so today. This statue of him stands gazing out at the parliament building in the heart of London, symbolizing the government and the nation that he devoted his life to serving and protecting.


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