Undercover exhibition reopens at Churchill’s War Rooms

    Winston Churchill
    Winston Churchill, cigar in mouth, gives his famous 'V' for victory sign during a visit to Bradford, 4 December 1942. Credit: IWM
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    An updated exhibition at Churchill’s War Rooms offers an insight into the life of Britain’s greatest statesmen…

    Undercover: Life in Churchill’s Bunker has reopened at Churchill War Rooms after receiving a significant amount of renovation. Many new displays have been added, with a wide range of documents and historic objects, much of which has never been displayed before.

    St Paul's during the Blitz by Cecil Beaton
    The Home Front, 1940–1941, by Cecil Beaton. The western bell towers of St Paul’s Cathedral in London seen through an archway after the heavy incendiary raid of 29 December 1940. Credit: IWM

    Initially opening in 2009, the permanent exhibition was an attempt to map out the life of the war hero and his colleagues as they made their world-changing decisions from the bunker. As well as records and accounts, the displays include some of the former prime minister’s personal effects, such as his ashtray and a manuscript of a recipe book written by Churchill’s cook, Georgina Landemare, detailing his favourite food.

    Other exhibits reveal intriguing details about working life in the bunker, such as the Remington Noiseless typewriter, which was used because Churchill hated any distractions, or a gas mask adapted so switchboard operators could continue their work even under gas attack.

    Visitors are offered the chance to understand what life was really like for the veterans who worked in secret with Winston Churchill from the men and women themselves in an audiovisual display. Lucy Tindle, exhibition manager at the Churchill War Rooms, said: “This exhibition offers visitors a glimpse of what life was like in the War Rooms during the tense days and nights of the Second World War. The display not only features items relating to Churchill and his War Cabinet, but also the seemingly ordinary and unknown men and women who contributed to the war effort ­ many of whom kept their experiences secret for years.”

    Undercover: Life in Churchill's Bunker at the Churchill War Rooms. Opened 20th July, 2016. Photographed 20th July, 2016.
    Elsan Chemical Loo used in the Churchill War Rooms during the Second World War (there were no flushing toilets in the Churchill War Rooms). Credit: IWM

    Muriel Cooper, who worked in the Key Points Intelligence Branch in the War Rooms from 1939 ­to 1944, said: “I never thought I was important, I just thought I was a cog in the wheel.” Another Churchill War Rooms veteran, Joy Hunter, said: “We weren’t on the front line in one sense but we very much had front line information around us.”

    The exhibition is divided into five different displays that look at: the foundation of the War Rooms; the protection levels of the shelter; the contribution of the ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things; the nature of working with Winston Churchill; and what happened to the War Rooms after the end of the war.

    Tickets are priced at £17.25.

     

    Words: Khusrau Islam

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