Bureaucracy, Bombs And Bunkers: Churchill's Wartime HQ

By Londonist Last edited 114 months ago
Bureaucracy, Bombs And Bunkers: Churchill's Wartime HQ

By tezzer57 via the Londonist Flickrpool
As any visitor to the Cabinet War Rooms, Winston Churchill's wartime HQ, will be aware, the one flaw in the brilliant scheme to move Government beneath Whitehall was that the bunker wasn't actually bomb proof. Not that it would have made much difference to a Prime Minister who marked the first air raid of the war on the roof of his flat in Morpeth Mansions with a bottle of Brandy, watched countless air raids on the roof of the Treasury, and generally slept above ground throughout the war.

Nevertheless, it is a fascinating insight into the workings of polite bureaucracy at a time of national emergency to see a new letter, going on show at part of the CWM's Undercover: Life in Churchill's Bunker exhibition, (opens August 27th), which recalls the extent to which stiff upper lip prevailed in the underground headquarters of the Greatest Briton.

In the letter from Patrick Duff, permanent secretary at the Office of Works, to Sir Edward Bridges, the Cabinet Secretary, he noted that Churchill "said that [Duff] had ‘sold him a pup’ in letting him think that this place is a real bomb-proof shelter". The Permanent Secretary insisted that he had never said anything of the sort, adding, "I was a bit indignant when I was [accused] of representing the thing as being in any sense bomb-proof: and I am moved to make this scream of injured innocence to you."

It's reassuring that a clearly upset Civil Servant chose to commit his feelings to paper rather than rocking the boat, and this is a classic example of how high tempers were put to one side by those who worked to win the war. There are sure to be many more in this new exhibition of personal accounts of the men and women who worked at the Cabinet War Rooms.

By Tom Jones

Undercover: Life in Churchill’s Bunker runs from 27th August until 30 September 2010. On a related note, have a look round Churchill's Emergency Bunker in Dollis Hill courtesy of our visit there back in May.

Last Updated 21 July 2009