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Churchill’s Bunker – The Secret Headquarters |at the Heart |of Britain’s Victory
By Richard Holmes
(Profile Books, R154)
Unlike Nkandla, Churchill’s bunker was a Spartan affair. Thoughts turned to protecting the British command centre sometime before World War II broke out and plans were mooted to decentralise the various arms of the military and civilian administration to locations outside London.
The speed with which events overtook the somewhat complacent British bureaucracy compelled them to settle for an underground warren of corridors and offices fortified by slabs of concrete and steel.
These were to be the secret Cabinet War Rooms right in the centre of London!
When Churchill first set eyes on the hide it must have appealed to his sense of drama: he immediately declared that that was the spot from where he would wage the defence of Britain and her empire.
With a deft turn of phrase and a keen sense of the idiosyncratic, Holmes holds our attention as he recreates the remarkable, surreal atmosphere that permeated the crowded labyrinth that housed the nerve centre of the British High Command during the war.
Map rooms reflected progress on land, at sea and in the air.
There were living quarters for generals and clerks, secretaries and typists and most important, telecommunica- tions rooms manned 24 hours by a dedicated team of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.
Churchill loomed large over the frenzy in the smoke-filled claustrophobic arena.
The war was won not only by generals on the battlefield, but also with the dedication of people at home doing extraordinary things under pressure.
The Cabinet War Rooms have been restored as a museum and may be visited in central London. – Ugo Paladini