Our last two days in London were slower and more relaxed than the previous five. We also split up a bit more. On Monday, while Nicola bopped around the shops near our hotel and sent some postcards, Dana and I headed off to Westminster to visit the Churchill War Rooms.
This is one of those destinations that many people, like Nicola, have absolutely no interest in. Dana, however, majored in history and World War II, odd as this might sound, is one of my hobbies. So for us, a museum dedicated to Churchill and the War in Europe was a must-see. And it didn’t disappoint!
A bit of background: in 1938, right at the onset of WWII, a series of rooms were constructed beneath the Treasury Building in Whitehall, for use by the Cabinet and armed forces. In 1940, Churchill declared the Cabinet Room the place from which he would win the war and it was massively important to the entire effort. In the ’80s they were reopened by Thatcher as the Imperial War Museum. History lesson over.
Currently, there are two parts to the museum: the War Rooms themselves, and a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill. The entry fee is £16 for adults and altogether it took Dana and I a little under two hours. But we read everything, watched most of the videos, and did some of the interactive things, so other people might take less time.
The museum has been restored and maintained with a lot of care. As you walk through, you can look into sleeping quarters (labeled with the name of the occupants), map rooms, the transatlantic telephone room, and other places, such as kitchen areas, that give you a well-preserved glimpse into life underground during the war. You will also find loads of first-hand accounts and things like gas masks, medals, and original rotary phones. There’s also a cafe in the middle, serving period-appropriate food, but Dana and I didn’t eat there. If I ever go back, I’ll have to rectify that because it would have been a fun little addition to the day.
At the end of the museum there is, of course, a gift shop, where I bought a magnet with a famous Churchill quote (“Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”) and a postcard of a poster encouraging women to sign up for the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service). There’s also a box for monetary donations because museum upkeep is expensive.
I would definitely do the War Rooms again, but if history isn’t your thing, give it a pass. For those with an interest in the Second World War, though, it’s fantastic.
Unfortunately, I was lazy with my camera the rest of the day, so I don’t have any pictures from our evening. Which is particularly sad because Dana, Nicola, and I got dressed up and went for a nice dinner before seeing the musical Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi. I’d seen it before, in Seattle, but the production in London was great and our seats, mid-way up the balcony, weren’t bad. I really enjoyed it. And, for an added bit of awesome, we saw Colin Firth at the theatre!
Only one day left in my great UK adventure and then the London Special will be over and we’ll be back to your regularly scheduled Japan-tastic programing. Stay tuned!