Churchill War Rooms

Monday, July 18

This morning class met on the south bank. We joined with the group of students from Ohio State to hear Sifiso Mazibuko talk about performing in the musical Motown.  His talk was interesting but, this is his first major acting job in the West End.   It lacked the depth of experience I saw from our previous speaker, Gavin Creel.  However, he did give our students good advice and the conversation was interesting to me since it really spoke from the other side.  From there we walked along the bank of the Thames to Westminster Bridge.

Crossing over we passed Big Ben and Parliament and Westminster Abbey to the Churchill War Rooms in the basement of the Treasury building.   The area of London where you find BB and Parliament are incredibly busy.  The tourist crowds are intense and during controversial moments can be filled with protesters as they were the last time I was here.  I am happy to report it was much quieter this year.  The buildings are so striking.  The architectural details are lost in most photographs.

This fronts onto St. James Park.  This museum is a series of rooms that housed the Prime Minster (and ultimately his family), the cabinet and members of the armed services to protect them during the bombing of London.  From there they were able to strategize, plan and conduct the war safely.  Churchill felt strongly he could not leave London for morale purposes.  It is easy to see how difficult their lives must have been during this trying time in the history of the country.  The rooms were closed up almost immediately after the war and forgotten (to most people) like a time capsule.  Gradually interest rose from small groups and interest came to restore and make available to the general public.  The were officially opened in the mid-1980’s for tours.

The journey through the underground bunker is moving and they have created a great museum to Churchill.  MY father always spoke admirably of Winston Churchill and it made me wish he could have toured these rooms.  I think he would have spent a long time absorbing every detail.

After the afternoon in the underground we headed back up to the hot streets of London.  The mild temperatures we experienced earlier in the trip have been replaced with more steamy heat.  By our standards, not too bad but the Brits are really beginning to feel this.  Of course, we are as well especially in the steamy unair-conditioned dorms.  Entering the hall, you are hit in the face with the heat each time we return and it is only moderately better in the rooms but, I am used to it and it isn’t that bad in the end.

This evening’s production is Motown, the Musical.  This is the one big West End musical we are seeing this year and the students are excited about this production.

The production was first-rate in terms of production values.  The visual elements were quite stunning but, as a play it doesn’t hold up well.  It tried to do too many things and there was never a sense of a story.  There are too many stories.  Is it telling the story of Motown, the love story between Ross and Gordy, the changes in the African-American community during this time or what?  It uses all the beautiful music from Motown and it is enjoyable for that (although, it seemed a slightly pale imitation of the originals).  Act I concluded with Marvin Gaye singing his classic, What’s Going On?  I thought that summed it up perfectly.  Am I glad I went, certainly but, it seemed to be a vehicle to cement Berry Gordy’s legacy and I already know his legacy.  I didn’t need a reminder.


Blog 01 Sifiso

Sifiso Mazibuko was the guest speaker for today’s class. Sifiso plays Marvin Gaye in Motown, the Musical.

Blog 01a

Class met in the basement of this old church.



Blog 02 London Eye

Walking along the Thames, we passed the Eye of London, a very large ferris wheel.

Blog 03 Big Ben Parliment

Westminster Bridge looking across the Thames to Big Ben (the clock tower which is actually the Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queens Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee)  and Parliament.

Blog 04 Big Ben

Elizabeth Tower which houses Big Ben.


Blog 05 Parliment

Parliament Building

























































1858 image of Westminster

An 1858 image of the newly completed Westminster Palace. Big Ben had not yet been installed in the clock tower.






Blog 06 CWR entrance

This is the entrance to the rooms where Churchill and the cabinet essentially lived during the war.


Blog 06 CWR

This room was the center of command – the cabinet room. The clock in the room is set at just before 5 pm. The date 15 October, 1940. The day before, the bombing had damaged 10 Downing Street.

Blog 07 CWR

The sign speaks for itself.













Blog 08 CWR

This secret room was created by mid 1943. No one really knew what was in the closet. It contained a secure radio/telephone link to the White House so, the Prime Minister could speak with Roosevelt as needed.

Blog 09 CWR

The enigma machine made famous in the recent film, The Imitation Game.

Blog 10 CWR

One of my favorite paintings of Churchill. It was nice to see in real life.















Blog 11 CWR

I am sure many of the gentleman staying here were not used to such cramped quarters.


Blog 12 CWR

The PM’s military advisor’s room.

Blog 13 CWR

Dining Room for the Prime Minister. Eventually, Churchill’s wife moved into the facility.

Blog 14 CWR

This was Mrs. Churchill’s living quarters.






Blog 15 CWR

There was one kitchen for the bunker although it seems it was manned by the PM’s cook.


Blog 16 CWR

There was a room for the BBC so they could broadcast the latest information from the Prime Minister. He could make speeches which he did regularly to boost the morale of his people.


Blog 17 CWR

This was Mr. Churchill’s quarters.


















Blog 18 St. James Park

Leaving the war rooms, you can see across the street, St. James Park.


Blog 19 Shaftesbury Theatre

Motown, the Musical was performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre.