Merry in Olde England - & a Wedding - Fall 2014 travel blog

conference room

direct lines

enigma machine

hot line to FDR

radio operator with gas mask

sleep where you work

Replacing the tube tickets I left behind was easy; all you need is more money. Then we headed to Leicester Square and purchased theatre tickets for half price. We are used to standing in lengthy lines to do this in the summer, but this time of year the lines are so short, we were at the purchase window before we decided what we wanted to see.

Then we headed to the Churchill War Rooms, part of the Imperial War Museum. We heard a lot about them when they reopened in 2005. You used to need a special appointment to go inside and we had never seen them. London was heavily bombed during World War II. Construction of the Cabinet War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in the Whitehall area of Westminster, began in 1938. They became operational in August 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war in Europe. They remained in operation throughout the Second World War, before being abandoned after the surrender of Japan. On 22 October 1940, during the Blitz bombing campaign against Britain, it was decided to increase the protection of the Cabinet War Rooms by the installation of a massive layer of concrete known as 'the Slab'. Up to five feet thick, the Slab was progressively extended and by spring 1941 the increased protection had enabled the Cabinet War Rooms to expand to three times their original size. Even with these precautions, it was feared that a direct hit could still have caused the building to collapse and crush those below. Churchill and his staff spent huge amounts of time underground planning strategy and tactics. He was renowned for working long hours and he and his staff ate and slept in the complex at times. We saw videos of his staff, who talked about how top secret it all was. One woman did not tell anyone what she was doing there for ten years. When staff did come above ground to go home, they never knew if their homes were still there. Living here must have been terrifying during the war.

Many of the people that worked underground did not come in close contact with Churchill, but they always knew he was nearby when they smelled his cigar smoke. He was hard on himself and hard on his staff. At the center of the war room complex a museum honored the man with the cigar and shared details from his lengthy life. Even though he was a poor student, he recognized the rise of the Nazi's in Germany and what their plans were long before other politicians in England. It must have been tough for him to lose his position as prime minister shortly before the treaty to end the war was signed, but he went on to win a Pulitzer for his historical writings.

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