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Cabinet War Rooms
Cabinet War Rooms, London
The cabinet war rooms were Winston Churchill's headquarters during the Second World War. Leaders fighting a war before the twentieth century had usually sat in some ostentatious castle, which served as an image of power. Walking down Clive Steps in King Charles Street, Whitehall, there is nothing to announce the headquarters of Britain's war effort in the Second World War. The entrance is to the right of the steps as you look at them, the doorway's position only announced by a few sandbags. In a sense this gives a clue to the ominous nature of modern warfare. In past centuries combatants had been rather like competing stags, where the antlers were for show as well as for fighting. A good display could sometimes avoid the need for any risky physical violence. This is only a generalisation of course. There have been terrible battles throughout history. Nevertheless it is surprising how many castles, for example, have been rarely or never used in battle. Their appearance was enough of a deterrent.
Into the twentieth century things changed. Weapons were now so powerful that whole cities could be wiped out. By the end of the Second World War the development of atomic weapons meant that the whole of the human race was vulnerable. The showy game of two stags was over. War went underground into claustrophobic places like the Cabinet War Rooms. Following the Second World War, the Cold War intensified this trend, as can be seen in visiting surviving Cold War installations, such as the Dover Castle tunnels, Scotland's Secret Bunker, or the cramped confines of the spy submarine HMS Ocelot at Chatham Dockyard. But it was the Cabinet War Rooms where we really see the beginning of this dark new hidden form of war. It was from here that Churchill sat in the Transatlantic Telephone Room, a converted broom cupboard, talking to Roosevelt on a scrambled telephone line.
Since 1984 a large underground area has been opened up. The centre of the complex is the Map Room, which was closed down on the 16th of August 1945, the day after VJ Day. The room now appears exactly as it did on that day. Since 2003 additional underground areas have been turned into a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill. The entry price allows entrance to the War Rooms, and to the Churchill Museum.
Opening Times: Please use contact details below.
Directions: The Cabinet War Rooms are at the junction of King's Charles Street and Horse Guards Road. Click here for an interactive map centred on the Cabinet War Rooms.
Address: Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AQ
Access: Standard size wheelchairs can reach all areas of the site. Two wheelchairs are available. Sound guide and large print guides are provided. There is an induction loop in the learning centre.
telephone: 020 7930 6961
textphone: 020 7839 4906
fax: 020 7839 5897