The Cabinet War Rooms provided the secret underground headquarters for the core of the British government throughout the Second World War. It is now part of the Imperial War Museums in the UK and provides visitors with a comprehensive overview of Winston Churchill’s life, my aim is to retell some of this information.
For me, and many others, Winston Churchill is one of the most inspirational and stimulating figures in history, I have read a few of his biographies and was overjoyed when we got tickets to a late night opening of the War Rooms. It was great to be able to dress up as him (too far?) and prance about after a few whiskys – would Churchill have approved? Perhaps… but chances are he was probably too busy trying to bring the war to a successful close.
As well as being a great venue for a photo shoot there is a lot to be learned here. Churchill used his mother’s influence within society to be posted to active military campaigns where he wrote as a war correspondent for several London newspapers. He was active in Cuba, India, Sudan and South Africa – all before he was 25 years old. He escaped as from a Prisoner of War camp in Pretoria after capture during the Boer War in 1899, read this amusing telegram released following his escape. Instead of returning home he rejoined the army and they took Pretoria where 52 Boer camp guards surrendered.
While all of this was going on he wrote numerous books outlining his experiences and attempted to find a seat in politics. He won a seat in Oldham in 1900, following deselection he was invited to stand for Manchester North West and stayed there 1906-1908 when he was promoted to the cabinet.
He 1908 he introduced the first minimum wages bill, in 1909 he set up Labour Exchanges to help people find work. In 1911, Churchill was transferred to the office of the First Lord of the Admiralty. From the start of WWI Churchill was involved in engineering several campaigns that went awry and was demoted in 1915. After several months he went to the Western Front, he returned in 1916 and joined government again 1917.
Churchill was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924 and oversaw Britain’s disastrous return to the Gold Standard, this resulted in deflation, unemployment, and the miners’ strike that lead to the General Strike of 1926. From 1929 to 1939 became known as Churchill’s ‘Wilderness Years’, his opinions on Indian independence and his handling of the abdication crisis of Edward VII caused much controversy. Churchill’s warnings on Nazi Germany’s rearmament went unheeded. He spent much of this time writing and painting at Chartwell, the Churchill family home, which is now open to the public and protected by the National Trust.
From 1940-1945 Churchill was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and lead the country in the Second World War against Nazi Germany, on becoming PM he stated ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat’. Churchill’s speeches were motivational for the British nation, he knew the hopes of the public could change the direction of the war. I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard any of his speeches, here’s one that has become a definitive part of WW2 rhetoric.
I don’t wish to brush over the Second World War as it is the time that most of us instantly link to Winston Churchill, but I think there are plenty of resources available on the topic and most of all you can learn about it first hand at the Cabinet War Rooms – read more here!
In June 1944, the Allied Forces invaded Normandy and pushed the Nazi forces back into Germany over the coming year. On 8 May 1945 Churchill broadcast to the nation that the war with Germany had been won. I like to imagine the people gathered around ‘the wireless’ hearing this news and the huge sigh of relief that must have come with it.
Churchill emerged as a national hero from the Second World War, but surprisingly, his Conservative party was defeated by the Labour party in the 1945 election. In 1951, Churchill again became Britain’s Prime Minister. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 and was awarded Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter. Following a stroke, Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in 1955, at the age of 81, he kept his seat in the House of Commons until 1964. At 90 years of age, Churchill suffered a severe stroke. He fought back for nine days, but finally he died at his London home, on 24th January 1965.
I hope you enjoyed this short history of Churchill, you can see some backstage action of the war rooms…
The late night opening had a bar, dancing lessons and the opportunity to visit the museum (ie I got to try the outfits on) uninterrupted my children.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is it always the victor that writes the history books?! In this article I’ve mainly focused on the positive, Churchill made some very unpopular decisions. LET ME KNOW YOUR OPINION…
Entry Fee: £16.50