I have been to London at least twenty times. It is one of my favorite cities. As a native New Yorker, it is one of the few cities in the world that I could earnestly say feels like New York’s sister city. London is a wonderful gateway for Americans into the rest of Europe and when I was barely 20, it was the first place I went by myself internationally for vacation. I love London and the UK.
London has many wonderful sites for travelers, but one of my favorites is Churchill’s War Rooms. I have probably visited three to five times.
I told my husband, who has not visited London with me that when we visit together, we need to see the bunkers. And, it is a running joke in my family about the bunkers. As much as I think it is something to see every time I am in London, for some members of my family, seeing them once was enough.
When I was in school, I was never very good in history. It seemed like a whole string of dates to memorize. But, one day when I was in my last semester of college, an English professor helped the class dissect Lord Byron’s “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, and I remember how he said that pictures were frozen in time and would never truly die so long as the urn remained. History and eternity were offered to us. It is an idea I have welcomed since because it is the thought that anything or anyone can reverberate through eternity. We just have to remember.
And, when I grew older I was able to really understand the individual stories that filled the pages of countless history books, which helped me to appreciate what has come before and today, I tend to read people’s stories in the context of history and from there I come to learn and comprehend important and consequential moments in time.
It is through that lens that I appreciate Churchill’s bunkers. During the course of World War II, the War Rooms were the headquarters for the British government. Through the London Blitz to the planning of D-Day, Winston Churchill and other key members of the British government spent countless hours, weeks, months and even years looking to win the war with the Allied countries.
Walking through the War Rooms, you will notice many things. You will notice how low the ceilings are and the warren of passage-ways. You may wonder, as I did how people could live and work under these conditions day after day. But, the flip side of the same coin is how modern and sophisticated these War Rooms were for their day. They had kitchen facilities, telephones, giant maps, offices and private quarters for Winston Churchill.
Spending time and walking through the War Rooms, you are immediately transported back in time. And, you feel Winston Churchill’s presence and that of the others who courageously surrounded him decades after they occupied that space. And, knowing Churchill’s brilliant rhetoric, one wonders if one of his finest speeches was written in whole of in part in the gloom and urgency of the bunkers.
“…We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old…” – Winston Churchill.
Posted: July 28, 2014
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