Monday 12 August 2019

Book tickets to visit Churchill War Rooms online, in advance and be in with a chance of winning a hamper worth £250 of IWM prizes. Add a CWR 80th Anniversary Prize ticket to your basket to be entered. Ts&Cs

On 27 August 1939 – one week before the outbreak of the Second World War – the Cabinet War Rooms became operational for the first time.

At first the rooms were little more than a dusty basement beneath government offices near Downing Street. In summer 1938, as Hitler’s demands for Czechoslovak territory brought Europe to the brink of war, a team led by Sir Leslie Hollis worked to turn this space into a fully equipped war room –  where senior political and military leaders could coordinate a future war effort.

‘I had no precedent to work on, for this headquarters was to be the first of its type,’ recalled Hollis. In preparation, alcoves were filled with sandbags, glass doors replaced with solid wood, and telephone lines installed. When war eventually broke out in September 1939, the Cabinet War Rooms were ready.

‘This is the room from which I will direct the war.’

‘This is the room from which I will direct the war.’

In May 1940, as German forces invaded western Europe, Winston Churchill visited the Cabinet War Rooms. He had recently been appointed Prime Minister and in the Cabinet Room, he remarked ‘This is the room from which I will direct the war’.

The Cabinet would meet at the War Rooms 115 times, especially during the 1940-41 ‘Blitz’ bombing raids, and the 1944-45 V-weapons offensive.

The Map Room was manned 24-hours a day until shortly after the surrender of Japan, in August 1945. For the first time in almost six years, the lights were switched off.

In 1948, questions in Parliament prompted a government promise that the complex’s key rooms would be preserved. At first people were allowed to visit in small groups, on guided tours.

By the 1970s, when the Imperial War Museum was asked to take over running the site, tens of thousands of people were applying to visit each year. Opened to the public as a museum in 1984, the museum has worked to preserve the Rooms and their stories.

Now known as the Churchill War Rooms, this underground headquarters now welcomes thousands of visitors, each uncovering the secrets of this historic site.

Winston Churchill, Second World War, Cabinet War Rooms

9 Secrets from Churchill War Rooms

Winston Churchill, Second World War, Cabinet War Rooms

9 Secrets from Churchill War Rooms

Discover some of the hidden stories of Churchill War Rooms. 
A caricature of Adolf Hitler drawn onto a map in the Chiefs of Staff Conference Room . © IWM SITE CWR 456.

Life in Churchill’s War Rooms

  • A secret stash

    When IWM took over the Churchill War Rooms in the early 1980s, three sugar cubes were discovered, hidden away in a desk drawer of the Map Room.

  • Top secret typist

    Joy Hunter worked in the Cabinet War Rooms during the Second World War and remembers what it was like to see Churchill walking the corridors.

  • Important work

    Churchill insisted on a quiet working environment - discover the piece of equipment that helped his staff reduce unnecessary noise. 

Visit Churchill War Rooms

Uncover 80 years of secrets and stories. Join us this anniversary year to step back in time and walk the top secret corridors of the Cabinet War Rooms.

View of the Map Room at Churchill War Rooms
IWM SITE CWR 567
Permanent display
Cabinet War Rooms

Churchill War Rooms

Permanent

Women at the switchboard in Churchill's Bunker
Permanent display
Undercover: Life in Churchill's Bunker

Churchill War Rooms

Permanent

Churchill With Tommy Gun
Permanent display
Churchill Museum

Churchill War Rooms

Permanent

Explore our shop

  • Secrets of Churchill War Rooms book cover
    Secrets of Churchill’s War Rooms

    Delve into the stories of life in the Cabinet War Rooms.

  • Churchill War Rooms guidebook cover
    Churchill War Rooms Guidebook

    Find out the key facts about Churchill War Rooms and plan your visit. 

  • Map Room Clock product photograph from IWM Shop
    Map Room Clock

    Keep time with this authentic replica of the Map Room Clock on display at Churchill War Rooms.