Whenever I thought of war, I always assumed that only those doing the actual fighting were under miserable conditions and in extreme danger. Visiting the Churchill War Rooms in London showed me that even the highest leaders must make sacrifices and live under dangerous and miserable conditions.
The German Luftwaffe brought violence and destruction right to Winston Churchill and his highest officials and advisors through the bombings of London. Churchill tried to remain above ground and be accessible to the British people and show them that he was not afraid. He was eventually forced under ground for his safety. Churchill, his top advisors, and staff lived and worked in the War
Rooms. Some staff went weeks without emerging, but Churchill preferred to sleep elsewhere. In fact, he only slept in his prepared underground bedroom only three times. They had to live off of restricting rations just like the rest of Britain. The worst part was that they were in constant danger of being killed by a bomb. While the bunker was underground and did have extra reinforcements for protection, it could not withstand a direct hit from a bomb.
As I walked through the war rooms, I could not help but feel cramped and claustrophobic. The hallways were narrow, the ceilings were low, and the rooms were small. There were no windows to let in daylight or to circulate the air. After touring the rooms for three hours, I was ready to come back outside to the fresh air. While seeing the rooms gave me a better idea of what Churchill faced during the war, it is still difficult to imagine making crucial decisions that could decide the fate of thousands of men while your city was being bombed. The bravery and resilience of the men and women who kept the heart of Britain’s war effort beating is both humbling and impressive.
Viewing the war retrospectively, it is easy to see that the work done in the War Rooms was crucial for Allied victory, but I imagine that if I had been working there during the war, it would be easy to grow disheartened amidst the death and destruction I witnessed in London.
While the conditions in the war room were far from ideal, I would have rather worked in the War Rooms than been on the front. Many of the people who worked in the War Rooms considered it an honor and privilege to have served their country through their work.