This museum is actually one of five departments of the Imperial War Museum. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic underground complex that housed a British government command centre throughout the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill. In 1936 the Air Ministry, the British government department responsible for the Royal Air Force, believed that in the event of war enemy aerial bombing of London would cause up to 200,000 casualties per week. British government commissions under Warren Fisher and Sir James Rae in 1937 and 1938 considered that key government offices should be dispersed from central London to the suburbs, and non-essential offices to the Midlands or North West. Pending this dispersal, in May 1938 Sir Hastings Ismay, then Deputy Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, ordered an Office of Works survey of Whitehall to identify a suitable site for a temporary emergency government centre. In May 1939 it was decided that the Cabinet would be housed within the Central War Room. In August 1939, with war imminent and protected government facilities in the suburbs not yet ready, the War Rooms became operational on 27 August 1939, only days before the invasion of Poland on 1 September, and Britain's declaration of war on Germany on 3 September. During its operational life two of the Cabinet War Rooms were of particular importance. Once operational, the facility's Map Room was in constant use and manned around the clock by officers of the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. These officers were responsible for producing a daily intelligence summary for the King, Prime Minister and the military Chiefs of Staff. Churchill visited the Cabinet Room in May 1940 and declared: 'This is the room from which I will direct the war'. In total 115 Cabinet meetings were held at the Cabinet War Rooms, the last on 28 March 1945, when the German V-weapon bombing campaign came to an end.
In the Cabinet War Rooms you can 'Walk in the footsteps of Churchill and glimpse what life would have been like during the tense days and nights of the Second World War. See where Churchill and his War Cabinet met and step back in time in the Map Room, which has remained exactly as it was left on the day the lights were switched off in 1945.' In the Churchill Museum you can 'Hear extracts from Churchill’s rousing wartime speeches, read some of the hundreds of devoted letters Churchill exchanged with his wife Clementine and delve into Churchill’s life story. See objects relating to all periods of Churchill’s life, from his early childhood to his state funeral.' Wheelchair users should go to the front entrance via Birdcage Walk in St Jame's Park. Once inside there is a lift to the basemant, accessible toilets and an excellent cafe. There are audioguides, guide dogs are welcome and private tours can be arranged. A full visit can take 2 hours or more. There is much else to do in the area so this is a good idea for a days outing.
Location : Clive Steps, King Charles St, SW1A 2AQ
Transport: St James Park (Circle, District Lines) London Buses routes 3, 11, 12, 24, 53, 87, 88, 109, 148, 159, 184, 211, 453 stop nearby.
Opening Times: Everyday 09:30 to 18:00 (last entrance 17:00)
Private Tours by arrangement
Tickets : Adults £16.35 Concession £13.05
Children 5 - 15 £8.15, under 5 Free
Carers free, one per disabled person.
Tel: 020 7930 6961.