Friday 24 September 2021

Imperial War Museums - Would Winston work from bed?



In July 1940, a couple of months after becoming Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was given his own office-bedroom in the Cabinet War Rooms.
Just next door was the Map Room, where officers of all three armed services gathered and logged intelligence every day of the war.

Caution did not come naturally to a man like Churchill.

When the sirens sounded for a bombing raid, his first thought was not to don a helmet and retreat underground. Instead, it was to climb up to the roof and take a look at what was going on.

Unsurprisingly then, he didn’t take much advantage of his bedroom in the Cabinet War Rooms.

In fact, he is only thought to have spent the night there three times during the whole of the Second World War.

Yet, he did enjoy some of his famous afternoon naps in this room. These 3pm siestas were a vital part of his intensive 18-hour daily schedule.

Leading Aircraftwoman Myra Murden kept the maps updated in the Map Room. She didn’t meet Churchill in person, but his presence was still felt when it was time for a snooze:

“Sometimes during the day we would hear a tap on the radiator or ventilator…And we had to be quiet because Churchill was having a nap.

I always remember that…shhh! And then…’tap tap’, and we used to know he was awake again!”
See Churchill's wartime bedroom and more, left almost exactly as it was on your next visit to Churchill War Rooms.

Housing the underground nerve centre where the British government directed the Second World War and the award-winning Churchill Museum, Churchill War Rooms is one of London’s must-see attractions.
Churchill also used the bedroom as an office before and after meetings with the War Cabinet.

If you have ever seen Churchill’s wartime bedroom, you may have noticed that the walls are covered in various maps.

These maps showed Britain’s main coastal and defence installations, as well as possible landing sites for a German invasion – the Prime Minister’s chief concern in the darkest days of 1940.

As many of these were confidential, heavy curtains were hung, which could be pulled over to hide them if Churchill was entertaining visitors who didn’t have that level of security clearance.

Most notably, this room was used to deliver four major speeches during the Second World War.

One on 11 September 1940, encouraging Britons to prepare for a German invasion. Another on 21 October 1940 to the French Empire.

The third was a speech to the people of Italy on 23 December 1940. And the last was a response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 8 December 1941.

Possibly some of Churchill’s best wartime thoughts could have come to him in that room. While he only delivered four speeches from his bedroom, he dictated many more from there.

He could often be found dictating his next speech to his secretary from the comfort of his bed.

The Prime Minister’s Private Secretary, John Colville recalls:

“I remember vividly going into his bedroom … just when Neville Chamberlain died and he was dictating to Mrs Hill, one of his personal secretaries, a very moving speech which he made the next day in the House of Commons.

… lying flat on his bed looking, I think, not totally proper, because he did rather forget who was in the room… He dictated quite a lot from that room – quite a lot of speeches – because he liked to lie in bed and dictate.”

You can still see Winston Churchill’s bedroom at Churchill War Rooms, almost exactly as it was when he used it. Click here to discover what else you can see on a visit to Churchill War Rooms.
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