British Culture

A visit to the Churchill War Rooms

Darkest Hour is a blockbuster depicting the dramatic and inspiring story of Winston Churchill. Churchill is, to this day, one of the most important historical figures of Britain. He quite literally changed the course of Western civilization.

So, what can you expect from the film? Starring Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour tells the tale of a critical period of four weeks in 1940, during which Churchill’s courage changed the course of world history.

Within days of being appointed Prime Minister of Britain, Churchill was faced with making the penultimate decision of whether to commence peace negotiations with the German dictator (Hitler) and save the British people at a terrible cost or to stand firm to fight for the liberty and freedom of the nation against all odds. The film tells the story of one of the most turbulent and defining trials of all time.

The movie features the influential leader in an array of London’s most famous spots, including 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament. But what we love most about the film is the powerful depiction of Churchill’s stuffy bunker – his secret, yet incredibly significant, mystery complex of underground war rooms.


History of the war rooms

Hidden beneath London’s busy Westminster streets in Whitehall is the bunker where Churchill and his inner circle plotted the Allied route to victory during World War II.

The Cabinet War Rooms were established in 1938, buried 10 feet below ground in the basement of the government offices to provide an underground, protected meeting place for government ministers, military strategists and, of course, Prime Minister Churchill himself. Following the huge devastation of World War I, planners feared of a terrifying 200,000 casualties from bombing in the first week of WWII. The offices also acted as emergency accommodation in the event of air attack on London.

The rooms became operational on August 27th, 1939, just a week before Britain declared war on Germany. From then on, they were the nerve centre of the British war efforts. The War Cabinet met in this mysterious underground complex a total of 115 times, and the rooms were used up until the surrender of Japan in September 1945. At this point, the lights were turned off in the ‘Map Room’, where vital information was collected for the first time in 6 years.

war rooms

Visit Churchill’s War Rooms

You can explore Churchill’s secret headquarters for yourself at the Imperial War Museums in London. The Churchill War Rooms and the impressive Museum tell the tale of Churchill’s 90-year life, from his childhood to his life as Prime Minister and the famous period known as the ‘Gathering Storm’.

You’ll be able to tour the wartime bunker and the historic rooms, which were once buzzing with plotting, secrets, and strategies, before heading to the Map Room, where books and charts lay exactly where they were left on the day the lights switched off. The Museum itself is fascinating, too, with an incredible collection of objects exploring the stories of Churchill’s legacy.

If you’re visiting London and need more information on what the vibrant capital city has to offer, check out our range of London Tours.