Windy. 26th September

Paddington Basin

Having bought membership to the Imperial War Museum when we visited Duxford earlier in the year it would be silly not to make use of it. As we were now on Plan B we could make use of the bookings we’d already made. 10:30 the Churchill War Rooms and in the afternoon HMS Belfast.

An austere doorway into the underground world

The entrance to the War Rooms is located on Horse Guards Road opposite St James’s Park. Here a line stood waiting to be allowed entrance, we spotted a second empty line for members or those with a booking, we were both of those so stood at the front of the queue and waited to be let in.

Alarm system

Down the steps we went under the Treasury building. Handsets with commentary were handed out and we set forth to explore the underground world from which Churchill had run the British campaign in WW2.

Conditions above ground

Corridors painted cream stretched off, had they originally been white but had years of chain smoking turned cream? Fans were used to move air round, an early air conditioning unit may have helped, but it must have been horrible down there. Those who worked down here worked twelve hour shifts rarely seeing daylight, they were oblivious to what was going on above their heads. A sign in a corridor would inform them of the conditions ‘Fine and Warm’ today, but if it said ‘Windy’ London was having a ruff time of it.

The rooms were gradually expanded though the war, taking over more basement rooms. Wooden posts were added to reinforce them, steel girders and then a thick slab of concrete was used, one staircase was totally filled in for safety (it took 3 months to drill through it make a corridor for the museum), still it may not have been enough should the building have had a direct hit.

Map rooms with coloured telephones, conference rooms. Sleeping quarters for many were on the floor below in bunk beds. The higher up you got you’d have a room with a narrow single bed, higher up the pecking order you’d have a couple more inches of mattress and be given a section of rug for the floor of your room.

Three cookers

A kitchen for the cook to prepare Churchills three cooked meals a day, she may have had to move her preparation from one building to another to keep the man fed.

Charts of flying bombs, maps of where they landed. Many of the rooms were just left when their need was no more. When it was handed over to the Imperial War Museum in the 80’s inventories were done for each room. In a drawer in the map room was an envelope which contained three sugar lumps, a commanders secret stash.

Part way though the corridors you enter a vast room, where walls must have been removed to house the Churchill Museum. Here the history of Churchill is arranged starting with his war time speeches. If you stood over a small glass square in the floor you could hear one of his historic speeches. Very clever as the next speech was only a few feet away. I had been wondering why people had stopped in their tracks and were stood staring into thin air.

Churchills political history was laid out in modern museum form, how such places have changed in the last ten years. Interactive screens where you can paint one of his landscapes, animations totting up his war time air miles around the world (over 100,000) and a list of his favourite things.

A collection of his hats, a plum coloured velvet siren suit, his medals stretching out in one long cabinet. This is a man who when not a politician headed off to war stricken parts of the world.

Excuse the fuzzy photos everything is behind glass

His room is one of the last on display. A comfortable single bed, maps on the walls, telephones, ashtrays. He apparently only slept in this bed for three nights, but he did have kips every now and again, Nana Naps. During these a signal was put out and silence rang through the corridors of the basement until he was awake again, even the typewriters were silent.

A key for every door on a door

We stopped off part way at the cafe. A very poor selection of things I could eat, just flapjack bars from a jar. However it was interesting to see the coloured in large scale maps of London showing bomb damage.

Too right

Well worth a visit, we didn’t take it all in and if we are back in London within our years membership we may return to read the displays we edited out today. By the time we left it was far too late to take in HMS Belfast as well. That will have to be for another time.

Quite a gravely beach

We walked down Horse Guards past the end of Downing Street to The Mall. Union Jacks flying the hole length to Buckingham Palace where the flag remains at half mast.

Buck House

Whilst we’d been underground we’d received email confirmation that our booking in Paddington Basin had been cancelled and the refund was to be processed. Mick tried giving them a call to explain that our change in circumstances had changed again and that we were using our booking after all. But as the call was not answered and went to answerphone he had to leave a message. At least we have informed them.

The No 6 bus took us from Trafalgar Square back to Edgeware Road where we perused M&S food hall for sad gits reductions. Back in Paddington we had one new neighbour NB Firecrest. Cheryl and Eric had been down to watch the flotilla on Saturday close to the Millennium Bridge. Thank you for the photos.

Hello! Do you remember me!?!

Food and a sit down with Tilly on my knee in front of the stove, a nice relaxing evening. Tomorrow we start to head west to pantoland.

0 locks, 0 miles, 2nd IWM site visited, 0 gf options, 2 cups of tea, 26 medals? 3 square meals a day, 0 time for HMS Belfast, 1 thing added to the next time list, 12 hour shifts, 1 evening in with Tilly.

If you fancy seeing more photos of the flotilla here are links to Scholar Gypsy’s blog

The last post has links to even more photos