Winston Churchill was a larger-than-life character.
As Prime Minister, his speeches during the Blitz and the rest of WWII demonstrated Britain’s resolve and courage to stand against the German onslaught, the first of Hitler’s opponents to do so successfully. Churchill’s fascinating War Rooms built to withstand the Blitz bombings are open to the public, and I toured them one afternoon last week. The War Rooms were the nerve center for Churchill’s government and war efforts, and they also tell quite a bit about the man himself. Indeed the attached museum is all about Churchill’s life and work.
It is clear that Churchill was a demanding, complicated boss, but given the circumstances and the stakes, everyone who worked for him considered it a privilege, at least the ones they interviewed for the museum. You can see his office and bedroom, the dedicated transatlantic phone on which he could call Roosevelt directly, Mrs. Churchill’s room when she decided to stay in the War Rooms, the rooms for his staff, the radio room, and his pride and joy: his Map Room. Apparently Churchill was a fan of afternoon naps and liked to lounge about in a velvet jumpsuit he called a siren suit of an evening. He also had high standards for food and an accommodating cook.
The museum starts with the war years, continues with the Cold War and then backtracks to Churchill’s early life until his election to PM. He was wholly focused on winning the war, no matter the cost. He actually lost the election in 1945 when the people of Britain voted in a Labour government over his Conservative one, in the hopes of ending the deprivations of the war years. He would be reelected in the 1950s. Overall, the War Rooms and museum provide an insightful sense of a complex historical figure.
Title quote: Winston Churchill