Elizabeth Layton was one of Churchill’s personal secretaries, working closely with him from 1941-1945.
RAF Officer William Dickson was on duty in the Map Room when he heard that war had broken out.
Ilene Hutchinson, a shorthand typist, experienced good camaraderie with the other girls working in the rooms.
George Rance was part of the team who secretly helped set up the rooms in readiness for war.
‘Enjoy is not really the word. One was completely inspired when working with him, and one felt that one was in the centre of everything and exceedingly privileged to be there. I was not the only one, but I’m speaking now as a person; I personally would have done anything I could for him. That mustn’t be misunderstood; Mr Churchill was someone who drew our complete respect, as I’ve said.’
- Elizabeth Layton, Churchill’s personal private secretary, describes how she felt working for him
Find out what it was really like in the Cabinet War Rooms during the war. Hear about the conditions underground, the camaraderie, the secrecy, the fear of attack, and the experience of working in close proximity to Churchill.
Undercover: Life in Churchill’s Bunker uses oral histories, film interviews and personal objects to tell the stories of some of the hundreds of staff who worked in the secret headquarters.
Discover the story of George Rance, a former Army Sergeant working for Office of Works, who became responsible for adding extra equipment onto open orders for other government departments in 1938, thus allowing the War Rooms to be furnished in secret. After war broke out, he stayed on as civilian ‘custodian’ of the site.
RAF Officer William Dickson was on duty in the Map Room on the day war was declared – he describes what happened underground in the run-up to Churchill’s speech. And Ilene Hutchinson, a shorthand typist, accompanied Churchill to the Yalta Conference in February 1945. You can also hear about her experience of VE Day when she climbed onto the roof of the building with her colleagues to watch the crowds.
Collections in Context
The Cabinet War Rooms
From 1939 to 1945, a group of basement offices in Whitehall served as the nerve centre of Britain’s war effort...
The British Home Front during the Second World War
When Britain went to war on 3 September 1939 there was none of the 'flag-waving patriotism' of August 1914...
The Second World War
The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in history...
From our Collections
'Tell Them to Make It a War Savings Christmas!'
Animals in War 1914-1918
The British Army in North Africa 1942
Christmas Puddings for Soldiers and Sailors
The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France 1939-1940
Tin of Sweets, British Grocers' Federation, Christmas 1914
Canadian Forces in the First World War
Pair of Boots (with clip-on skates)
The British Army in North-West Europe 1944-45