Tuesday, 3 October 2017

London (Kensington Hilton)

Lazy morning. Ate a full breakfast in the dinning room then came back up to my room and fell asleep. Rough life.

I’ve been planning to visit the Churchill War Rooms and today was the day. A couple of months ago I visited Chartwell, Churchill’s family home in Kent. Now I had a renewed interest in his involvement during the war years. I had heard about the underground bunker located in a Whitehall government building and now was ready to visit it.

In addition to the underground war rooms, this location also has an extensive Churchill museum. The location is near St. James’s Park.

The museum was easy to find and is completely underground. To imagine that people worked here steadily for 5 years was definitely a test of endurance. Was interested to see what it looked like and perhaps gain an understanding of what it must have been like to have worked here.

As little background, it was a very secret location that, when entering, was like “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” or “Get Smart” where it was hidden and those who worked there and sworn to secrecy. You entered through a door in the main building. It contained many different basement rooms that were, over a period of a couple of years, protected by layers of steel and concrete.

Halfway through the tour of the war rooms was the Churchill Museum, which was a nice break after looking through room after underground room of various offices. Was a little confusing since there wasn’t a clear path through the museum, and it was segmented by groups of years in his life. Interesting that one of the places in the museum that people gravitated towards was a video of his funeral. It was truly an end of an era when he passed away.

One of the volunteers who work there answered my questions about a picture I saw of St. Paul’s after one of the air raids. The volunteer wasn’t old enough to be around during the war years but was very well-versed on the events of those years. He also commented on a picture of a gas street lamp that is still there. (I took a picture of the current-day street lamp with the picture that I saw in the museum.)

The picture below was taken just outside of where today you enter the war room bunker. The street lamp is just off center behind Churchill.

Senior Staff Room (Churchill’s chair is just left of center)

Outside of Churchill’s Office

10 Downing Street Door (When Churchill was Prime Minister)

After viewing the Churchill Museum, the tour of the War Rooms continued. It occurred to me that this “bunker” was actually like a small town. People could live down there for months and never need to come back to the surface. Though, people worked long hours, they were encouraged to rest and sun lamps were used to provide some source of light to these tireless people.

Churchill’s Timeline (via touchscreen panel) 

Churchill’s Bowler Hat

Churchill Figurines

Churchill’s Family Watch

After a few hours, at the end of the tour, we came to the surface. Wonder what it would have been like, with limited ventilation and light, to be above ground after 15 or more hours in the bunker.

About this time I was getting hungry and had seen a pub, across from the nearby underground station, that advertised fish and chips. It was only a 10 minute walk away and thought I’d try it out.

When I was served my order, it was just one whole section of the battered fish and some fries. Yes, and a pint of the local IPA. There was option on the menu to have a larger portion and glad I only ordered the regular portion. Was very full when I left to return to the hotel.

I took the wrong underground line and ended up about 30 minutes away from the hotel so I just walked back rather than go back a few stations and try again. The weather in London has been mild with partial clearing. Have enjoyed my stay here and will return again when I get the chance.

Tomorrow I’ll move to the hotel near Kings Cross so the pending underground strike won’t affect my travel to Edinburgh on Thursday. Later in the evening I’m going to Prean’s birthday celebration. Also need to get a haircut.



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