Day 2. Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast, London

We began the day with a visit to the Churchill War Rooms hidden behind the streets of Westminster just a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street.  The War Rooms are now part of the Imperial War Museum with standard admission £25.  (Nearest underground stations, St. James’ Park and Westminster).

Churchill War Rooms, London
The entrance to the Churchill War Rooms

This was the underground headquarters where the Prime Minister Winston Churchill lived and worked during the Second World War.  On 31st May, 1938 these basement offices in Whitehall were transformed into a top secret complex which became known as the Cabinet War Rooms.  This historic sight has remained largely unchanged after the war ended in 1945.

Underground corridors at The Churchill War Rooms
Underground corridors at The Churchill War Rooms

This warren of rooms and corridors provided us with a glimpse of what life would have been like during the dark days of warfare.  We viewed the transatlantic telephone room located in a tiny cupboard disguised as a private WC where Churchill used to speak in secret to the President of the USA.

Cabinet Room, Churchill War Rooms, London
The Cabinet Room 
Churchill's bedroom at the Churchill War Rooms, London
Churchill’s bedroom at the Churchill War Rooms

Moving on to the Cabinet Room we were able to see the table where some of the most important decisions about the course of war were made.  Nearby, we learnt that the Map Room would have been in use 24 hours a day.  This was where vital information was collated and was constantly staffed by an officer from the Royal Navy, Army or Air Force.  The calendar was still on 16th August 1945 marking the last day the war rooms were used, which was the day after Victory in Japan.

Churchill Museum, Churchill War Rooms, London
Photos in the Churchill Museum

Alongside the War Rooms is the Churchill Museum documenting his life story from his childhood to his two periods as Prime Minister.  We found this museum to be equally fascinating from video clips of his rousing wartime speeches to his love of painting and penchant for cigars.  A centrepiece of the museum is a 15m long interactive table chronicling major world events and Churchill’s activities.

Churchill Museum in the Churchill War Rooms, London
A silhouette of Sir Winston Churchill in the Churchill Museum

On leaving the museum we made our way to HMS Belfast, also operated by the Imperial War Museum, which is moored close to Tower Bridge.  Standard admission is £22.70 with the nearest underground stations being London Bridge and Tower Hill.

HMS Belfast, London
HMS Belfast, London

HMS Belfast was built in the former Harland & Wolff Belfast shipyard which also built the infamous Titanic.  The ship was launched in March 1938, entering service just before the outbreak of World War Two.  She saw service throughout the war serving in the Atlantic and Arctic convoys and supported the D Day Landings, being the first ship to fire her guns as the Allies battled towards victory.  After her retirement in 1963, HMS Belfast became a permanent museum on the River Thames in 1971.

Ship's bell and lifebelts, HMS Belfast
The Ship’s bell and lifebelts, HMS Belfast

Tours of this historic ship are self guided with the aid of audio guides (included in the ticket price).  There are nine decks to explore including the boiler and engine rooms 15ft below sea level.  Most of the decks are accessed via narrow flights of stairs so I would recommend wearing sensible shoes to avoid slipping.

A section of the galley on HMS Belfast, London
A section of the galley on HMS Belfast, London

We were able to imagine what it must have been like to serve on board by viewing all areas including cabins, the sick bay, dentist, chapel, laundry and post office.  The galleys were surprisingly large but necessary as the catering staff had to sustain a crew of up to 880.  We continued on to the Mess Deck where the crew would eat, sleep and socialise when off duty and to the Operations Room where preparations for action were made.

Operations Centre, HMS Belfast, London
Operations Centre, HMS Belfast, London

Outside, we explored the Flag Deck and then from high on The Bridge we climbed up to take the helm in the Captain’s chair.  From there we had some good views across the Thames and of the main armament turrets to the front.

The Bridge, HMS Belfast, London
The Bridge, HMS Belfast, London

Touring the ship had been great fun and with the addition of hands-on activities it is an excellent historical learning experience for both adults and children.

On the upper deck of HMS Belfast
On the upper deck of HMS Belfast

After leaving HMS Belfast we didn’t have far to go to reach our next activity, a self-guided tour inside Tower Bridge.

Tower Bridge, London
Tower Bridge

We’ve crossed this iconic bridge many times but never before taken a look inside this famous London landmark.  Tickets cost £10.60 but substantial savings can again be made by taking advantage of National Rail’s Days out offer offering two for one tickets on production of valid rail tickets and the completion of a downloaded form.

Inside Tower Bridge
Inside Tower Bridge

This tour is definitely one of London’s hidden gems as we took a lift up the North Tower where we viewed the magnificent Victorian architecture.  We then sat down to watch a short film telling the story of how Tower Bridge was constructed, its history and of the hustle and bustle of crossing the bridge in Victorian times.  We learnt that the bridge took 8 years to build between 1886 and 1894 with the aid of 432 construction workers.  It is a combined bascule and suspension bridge with raised opening allowing vessels to pass through free of charge.

Crossing the glass floor walkway at Tower Bridge
Crossing the glass floor walkway at Tower Bridge

It was then time to walk across the high level walkway along the glass floor 137 feet above the Thames from where we could look down on traffic and pedestrians below our feet.  Along this walkway is a ‘Walk of Fame’ with ornamental bronze plaques named after those who helped build, maintain and operate the bridge.

Exploring the interior of Tower Bridge
Exploring the interior of Tower Bridge

We then walked across the bridge at road level following a clearly marked blue line which led us to the Victorian Engine Rooms where we marvelled at the original steam engines and coal fired boilers which once powered the bridge.  It required 80 people to raise the bridge using this ingenious steam powered hydraulic technology unlike today where it is operated electronically.

Tower Bridge Engine Rooms and Shop, London
Tower Bridge Engine Rooms and Shop, London

Going behind the scenes of Tower Bridge had been a memorable experience from its ornate Victorian staircases and leaded paned glass windows to the sheer size of the interior of its two towers.  I was amazed to discover that there was so much to see inside the bridge and was so pleased to have had an opportunity to visit.

Steam engine that used to power the raising of Tower Bridge
Steam engine that used to power the raising of Tower Bridge

Our exciting day wasn’t quite over as there was one more of London’s famous landmarks that we wanted to explore.  The Monument to the Great Fire of London is just a 15 minute walk from Tower Bridge and a permanent reminder to commemorate The Great Fire of London.  This was a devastating fire that burnt through the heart of the capital in September 1666.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London
The Monument to the Great Fire of London

The Monument stands 202 ft (61m high) and lies just to the west of the spot from where the Great Fire started on Pudding Lane.  Tickets to climb the 311 steps to the viewing platform at the top cost £5.40.  The spiral staircase wound round and round getting narrower as we approached the top but it was an easy climb with passing places and stone seats for anyone needing a breather.  There was just one staircase so we sometimes had to pause and stand close to the side to allow others to pass coming in the opposite direction.

View from the top of The Monument, London
View from the top of The Monument

On reaching the top we were rewarded with some breathtaking views across the capital.  I’d seen the tower many times before but it was the first time that I had attempted to climb it.  After negotiating our way safely back to ground level we were  each presented with a certificate celebrating our achievement.

Certificate for climbing to the top of The Monument
My certificate for climbing to the top of The Monument

A lovely way to end our day which had been up with the best.  It was then back to our hotel for a well earned rest and to put our feet up for awhile.

Seating at the foot of The Monument, London
Seating at the foot of The Monument to the Great Fire of London

 

If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also like:

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The Faraday Museum & Wallace Collection, London

 

If you use Pinterest please consider sharing and pinning the image below:Churchill War Rooms & HMS Belfast, London

 

58 thoughts on “Day 2. Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast, London

  1. Did you know that cruise guests use HMS Belfast to get on some of the cruise ships? They tender with little boats from Tower Pier to HMS Belfast where people get of and then they have to go over a ramp to get to the cruise ship.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a fascinating read on such a historical icon! I recently started reading more on Churchill so this post was perfectly timed. And I love that there is a museum of the Tower Bridge. Another incredible icon to read about. I hope you have a great rest of your week!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Churchill Museum is certainly a wonderful place to visit should you want to go back to WWII … and to visit the HMS Belfast … that must have been a highlight. But for me, the most beautiful is the Tower Bridge (and what a great opportunity to see the inside working of this bridge). The view from The Monument over The Thames is really spectacular!
    Thank you Marion for another wonderful tour through the streets of London!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so pleased to read that you enjoyed my tour of four more of London’s landmarks. It was so interesting to see inside Tower Bridge and marvel at its workings. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment as your input is always welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t think we will have time for the War Rooms or HMS Belfast on our trip, but we will be visiting the Tower Bridge Museum. You’re making me even more excited for our trip! The HMS Belfast reminds me I need to visit the ship in NYC called the Intrepid still.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ll love the Tower Bridge Experience Lyssy and if you have time and the weather is clear you could possibly climb The Monument to the Fire of London afterwards as it doesn’t take too long and is close by. What month are you visiting? I’m so excited for you both!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You really did get around London didn’t you? Saw all the famous historic sights. Brilliant. Love the Monument, such an underrated attraction, and Tower Bridge is so unique. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a great day and quite a workout for my calf muscles with all those steps but definitely worthwhile. The Monument to the Great Fire of London is often overlooked but has great views and well worth the climb. Hope your week goes well.

      Like

  6. We’ve also made all of these visits, with the exception of HMS Belfast. In fact we’ve been to the War Rooms twice, and think it’s one if England’s very best museums, really well thought out and cleverly presented. It’s a fascinating place full of information, which is why we went twice. Could happily go again, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. An insightful history into London’s past! Not only has this trip been one for plenty of incredible views, but also a look back into the city’s involvement with WWII and with the Great Fire of 1666. I’ve only crossed Tower Bridge, but never took the tour up to it, but it’s definitely something I’m keen on doing when I return to London someday! Looks like another fun and educational time spent in the city. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was definitely ani sight full day learning about London’s history. Do try and take the Tower Bridge tour next time you are in London. It was hard to believe how ornate the interior of the towers were. Thank you for taking the time to comment it’s so nice to hear from you again.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve been to Churchill’s War Rooms and the HMS Belfast – mainly because I was looking for something to do (and to go somewhere I hadn’t been before). I’m not normally into war related museums. However, I found these two places very interesting and spent quite a while at both.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Enjoyed this latest London roundup. We loved the Churchill War Rooms too when we visited last month. An amazing man with a fascinating story, can’t wait to blog that history when I eventually write it up. HMS Belfast looks cool, we saw it from The Sky Garden, but have yet to take the tour. The Tower Bridge experience is indeed great, while The Fire of London monument is definitely one of those underrated London spots. Have a great Sunday Marion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Leighton for taking the time to comment on this blog post it’s much appreciated. It’s great to read that you also both recently visited The Churchill War Rooms and other landmarks whilst in the capital. We might not have had sunshine but we enjoyed our day tremendously with yet more leg exercise with all those steps both on HMS Belfast and going up and down The Monument. I’ll look forward to reading your detailed blog posts on London at some point in the future too! M.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That sounds a good idea too but I’m sure you also took in those splendid views from the nearby Sky Garden. I believeM they are going to resume selling combined tickets of The Monument with the Tower Bridge Experience again soon so if you didn’t do that either, it might be a good opportunity to visit both together.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Lots of memories in this post Marion. We toured the War rooms and the bridge with our “kids” in 2008 and the Belfast in 1984. There is just so much to see and do in the part of London. Thanks for sharing. Happy Sunday. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to read that you also toured HMS Belfast Linda when you visited London. Taking a self guided tour around the boat works best so you can wander at your leisure. Enjoy your Sunday, it’s a lovely spring morning here, so hope it’s nice with you as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have done the visit of the Tower Bridge. However, that is over 2 years ago and I remember it being way more busy than your photos.
    The other places I haven’t been yet, maybe with the next people visiting me I can do some of them. Thank you for the ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking an interest in this post on London landmarks Ronny. The visitor attractions were still quiet a couple of weeks ago when we visited but I expect that they will soon get busier now that all U.K. COVID restrictions have been lifted and foreign visitors return. If you get a chance to visit the War Rooms and HMS Belfast, I’m certain you would enjoy them.

      Like

  12. Fantastic post, and so are the images! Churchill’s words, “never, never, never give up,” definitely ring true beyond WWII.

    And the Great Fire of London — Samuel Pepys’ journals touch on the disaster, and life in London during his time.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.