The Churchill War Rooms is a museum in London and one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museum. The museum comprises the Cabinet War Rooms, a historic complex of basement offices in Whitehall that served as the British government command centre during the Second World War. They were occupied by leading government ministers, military strategists and Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The museum also houses the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill.
Following the experience of the First World War and fears of large scale bombing in a future war, plans to evacuate the prime minister, cabinet and essential staff from London were drawn up as early as the 1920s, However it was considered that this would be publically unacceptable and a search for an emergency shelter in central London began.
Being near Parliament and having a strong steel frame and a large basement, the New Public Offices building (now the Treasury building) was selected in June 1938. The basement was adapted to provide meeting places for the War Cabinet during air raids and also housed a military information centre based around a Map Room, The Cabinet War Rooms became fully operational on 27 August 1939, a week before Britain declared war on Germany. In total Churchill’s War Cabinet met here 115 times, most often during the Blitz and the later German V-weapon offensive.
During the entire course of the Second World War the 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, the Prime Minister and the military Chiefs of Staff. Only on the 16th August 1945 were the lights turned off in the Map Room for the first time in six years.
After the war the historic value of the Cabinet War Rooms was recognised. In the early 1980s the Imperial War Museum was asked to take over the administration and the Cabinet War Rooms were opened to the public in April 1984 Subsequently they were renamed the Churchill War Rooms.
For more information go to http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms
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