Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms in London
|name= Churchill War Rooms
|caption=The Map Room of the Cabinet War Rooms.
|location= Clive Steps
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AQ
United Kingdom |visitors=314,162 (2009) and non-essential offices to the Midlands or North West. Pending this dispersal, in May 1938 Sir Hastings Ismay, then Deputy Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, ordered an Office of Works survey of Whitehall to identify a suitable site for a temporary emergency government centre. The Office concluded the most suitable site was the basement of the New Public Offices, a government building located on the corner of Horse Guards Road and Great George Street, near Parliament Square. The building now accommodates HM Treasury.
Work to convert the basement of the New Public Offices began, under the supervision of Ismay and Sir Leslie Hollis, in June 1938. The work included installing communications and broadcasting equipment, sound-proofing, ventilation and reinforcement. Meanwhile by the summer of 1938 the War Office, Admiralty and Air Ministry had developed the concept of a Central War Room that would facilitate discussion and decision-making between the Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces. As ultimate authority lay with the civilian government the Cabinet, or a smaller War Cabinet, would require close access to senior military figures. This implied accommodation close to the armed forces' Central War Room. In May 1939 it was decided that the Cabinet would be housed within the Central War Room.
The other key room was the Cabinet Room. Until the opening of the Battle of France, which began on 10 May 1940, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's war cabinet met at the War Rooms only once, in October 1939. Following Winston Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister, Churchill visited the Cabinet Room in May 1940 and declared: 'This is the room from which I will direct the war'. In total 115 Cabinet meetings were held at the Cabinet War Rooms, the last on 28 March 1945, when the German V-weapon bombing campaign came to an end.
On 22 October 1940, during the Blitz bombing campaign against Britain, it was decided to increase the protection of the Cabinet War Rooms by the installation of a massive layer of concrete known as 'the Slab'. Up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) thick, Even so, a tour was organised for journalists on 17 March, with members of the press being welcomed by Lord Ismay and shown around the Rooms by their custodian, Mr. George Rance.
While the Rooms were not open to the general public, they could be accessed by appointment, with access being restricted to small groups. Even so, by the 1970s (with responsibility for the Rooms having passed to the Department for the Environment in 1975) In 1981 Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, known as an admirer of Winston Churchill, expressed the hope that the Rooms could be opened before the next general election. The Imperial War Museum was again approached. Initially still reluctant, the museum's trustees decided in January 1982 that the museum would take over the site, on the understanding that the government would make the necessary resources available. The initial costs were to be met by the Department for the Environment, and the War Rooms intended to be self-supporting thereafter. The Rooms were opened to the public by Thatcher on 4 April 1984, in a ceremony attended by Churchill family members and former Cabinet War Rooms staff. At first the Rooms were administered by the museum on behalf of Department for the Environment; in 1989 responsibility was transferred to the Imperial War Museum. The Churchill Museum won the 2006 Council of Europe Museum Prize. It has become one of the most visited museums in the United Kingdom, with over 300,000 visitors in 2009. In May 2010 the name of the museum was shortened to Churchill War Rooms.