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Stepping back in time at the Churchill War Rooms in London
Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms (London)
Member Name: Economum
Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms (London)
Advantages: A fascinating place for anybody with an interest in history and especially useful for schoolchildren
Disadvantages: Quite expensive for a single adult but still worthwhile.
My son is in Year 8 and has been studying the Second World War at school in his history so we decided to make the trip to the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms in Central London. (Part of the Imperial War Museums but less well known)
The cabinet war rooms were constructed out of the basements of several large government buildings in Central London to give a secure place for the Prime Minister, his cabinet and generals to run the war.
You are given a phone type device - there are separate ones for children. My son found this commentary a bit patronising so I swapped with him but my 6 year really enjoyed keying in the number at each stopping point and holding it up to her ear to listen to it.
You see the best known part of the exhibition - the cabinet war room straight away with the square of tables and seats around the outside, map on the wall - but there is a lot more to come. The bedrooms - illustrating the rank of the occupants (whether they got a bit of carpet or just lino) the kitchens, the typing pool. The secretaries lived underground - sleeping in the cramped and rather unpleasant space on the floor below the museum of which you get only a glimpse - probably due to health and safety restrictions! They were provided with sun-lamps to try and make up for the lack of sunshine and there were small signs to tell you what the weather was like above.
The original BBC transmitters have been brought back to the transmission room - illustrating the essential communications purpose of the place.
One of the highlights is the map room - with maps still on the walls, desks and chairs and all accessories intact. They even found a paper packet of sugar in a desk drawer, neatly labelled, containing the general's sugar ration. The whole place was sealed up and left once the peace was declared.
The Churchill museum is a very large room in the middle of the cabinet war rooms - the nature of the place means that they couldn't choose where to put the rooms and obviously they had to just use what was there. There is a tremendous amount of information here including a giant interactive computerised table big enough for a dozen or more people to use at the same time - allowing you to page through many fascinating documents from throughout the war.
You can find the door of 10 Downing Street (a good photo opportunity), various uniforms, pistols and all sorts of things that belonged to Churchill. Interactive exhibitions displaying such things as the houses he lived in and comparing him with Chamberlain. I was surprised to find out for the first time about his involvement in the Boer War (at the start of the twentieth century) -escaping when a PoW by climbing over a wall and then jumping on a train - not something I expected from my image of him as the stout, cigar smoking gentlemen that he was by the time of the second world war. It was also fascinating to hear why Churchill was out of favour at the start of the second world war, due to having going against public opinion in the 1930s arguing against independence for India (he was very keen on the British Empire) and in favour of the King marrying Wallace Simpson. It is interesting to ponder how things might have gone differently had he been in charge from the start of the war!
I would recommend this museum to anybody with an interest in history and it will be especially useful for students studying the World War II as part of their history GCSE.
Unusually, the cafe is inside the museum - about two thirds of the way through - this was very pleasant and fairly quiet when we visited mid-afternoon. The tea and scones were very nice (they also do cakes and sandwiches).
There is a small but densely packed gift shop with the expected assortment of collection of postcards, books, toys, mementos etc.
Cost: £17 each for adults but children are free.
Students & Senior citizens: £13.60
It's well worth checking the 2for1 London offers as this is included in the 2for1 scheme if you travel that day by train (not underground) and some coaches (it's within walking distance of Victoria)
Clive Steps, King Charles Street, SW1A 2AQ
By St James Park
Open 7 days a week
The nearest tubes are St James Park or Westminster
Summary: A really fascinating day out
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