WWII Secrets of London: Westminster and the Churchill War Rooms
- Westminster Walk: See the landmarks of Whitehall, the center of British government – including Downing Street, Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Cenotaph – and learn their relationship to espionage and governments in exile during World War II.
- The Cabinet War Rooms: Tour the preserved maze of secret rooms from which the British government and military ran the war effort. See the Map Room where troop movements were plotted, the Transatlantic Telephone Room, the chamber where the Cabinet met over 100 times, Churchill's office and sleeping quarters, and more.
- The Churchill Museum: Explore a collection of objects celebrating Churchill's life, from his baby rattle to a flag that draped his coffin. Hear excerpts from his wartime speeches and read tender letters he exchanged with his beloved Clementine. See his paintings and the original door he walked through at No. 10 Downing Street.
- Small group = more personal: Groups are limited to no more than 20, for a relaxed and intimate experience with deeper guide interaction. (An audio guide system is used in the Churchill War Rooms.
About this London tour
If ever there was a city to which the phrase "hunkered down" applied, it was London during World War II. England's military planners had seen the maelstrom coming as early as 1936, estimating as many as 200,000 casualties from bombing in just the first week of the impending war.
By the time war arrived, shelters and warning systems were established citywide, school-age children were being shipped off to rural villages, and – deep beneath the Treasury Building in Westminster – an impregnable Cabinet War Rooms command complex was fully operational.
This top-secret, labyrinthine facility would be manned around the clock for the next six years, with newly elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill in command as of May 10, 1940 – the very day Germany invaded France and the Low Countries.
Enduring long shifts in isolation within these thick walls, where feeble sunlamps offered scant defense against vitamin-D deficiency, dedicated government staff and officers of the British Armed Forces undertook the business of running the war.
Even during the relentless pounding of the 1940-41 Blitz, daily intelligence briefings for the King, PM, and Chiefs of Staff were compiled. Progress was mapped, along with setbacks. Strategies were debated, full Cabinet meetings conducted, and code-scrambled telephone calls across the Atlantic continued, as Churchill collaborated with Roosevelt in what became known as the "special relationship" between their nations.
Using BBC equipment within his combination office-bedroom (he rarely slept there, preferring to return to Downing Street for what little rest he got), Churchill delivered a series of defiantly powerful radio addresses across Britain, Nazi-occupied Europe, and the wider world. Even in the darkest hours, Churchill's speeches were among the most inspiring the world has known, each a fresh rallying cry for an embattled nation that refused to surrender to despair. Or Hitler.
Even Germany's terrifying new "revenge weapons"– the V1 and V2 rocket bombs that rained fresh devastation on London in 1944 – couldn't break Britain's will to win.
As it turned out, the V-weapons were among the last gasps of a desperate Nazi war machine that had run off the rails, and was rushing headlong into the defeat that soon came. Though not soon enough for millions.
Speech of freedom
Famous as a gruff bulldog statesman, Winston Churchill also demonstrated considerable skill as a poet – and a preacher – in his speechwriting. Capturing the rhythmic structure of Shakespeare at his most persuasive, his June, 1940 "We shall fight on the beaches" address remains one of the most effective pieces of wartime oratory every delivered. After hearing it, a colleague wrote to him: "My dear Winston. That was worth 1,000 guns and the speeches of 1,000 years." And it's true. Heard today, it still packs a punch.
Please make your way to the top of the stairs behind the statue of Boadicea on a chariot at Westminster Tube on the Victoria Embankment to meet your expert guide.
To avoid disruptions or possible denied entry, we strongly suggest that you avoid bringing large purses, bags, or backpacks on your tour.
Expect a moderate amount of walking mostly with steps. If you have limited mobility, this tour may be too challenging for you to enjoy and maintain the pace of the group. It is not wheelchair accessible.
Walking Tour, Family Friendly, Cultural
Visit Churchill War Rooms
Guided Walking Tour
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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