It was from the secret, cramped confines of the Cabinet War Rooms, under the heart of central London, that Winston Churchill turned a seemingly inevitable defeat at the hands of the Nazis into a famous victory. Now, for the first time, the history of the bunker - and daily life inside it - is revealed, by distinguished historian Richard Holmes.
Professor Richard Holmes is one of Britain's best known historians. 'This is the room from which I will direct the war,' Churchill declared, shortly after becoming Prime Minister in 1940. And he did just that, as the distinguished Churchill biographer Richard Holmes explains in the first history of the Cabinet War Rooms. It was from these cramped, uncongenial confines that Churchill turned a seemingly inevitable defeat at the hands of the Nazis into a famous victory. Yet he was not working deep in a distant forest or hidden in a walled-off suburb: he was in the very heart of the capital, within sight of Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. Built in 1938 as a temporary refuge in case of air raid attack, this secret bunker became a second home to Churchill - and to large numbers of military personnel and civil servants whose work until now has been largely unsung. Here was the Map Room that charted the advances and retreats of armies, the locations of warships and the often painful progress of the convoys that kept the nation supplied. Here the planners worked on future operations and the intelligence staff pondered the enemy's next moves. And all this work was known only to those who needed to know. Drawing on a fascinating range of original material, including new first-hand accounts of the people who lived there, Holmes reveals how and why the bunker and its war machine developed; how the inhabitants' lives were transformed; and how their work led to victory. Elegant and illuminating, Churchill's Bunker is a unique exploration of one of the most important sites in British history.
A superb book ... Holmes vividly recaptures what it was like to
work in Churchill's bunker, the fabulous highs and dispiriting lows
... Holmes has written a book that serves both as a guide to the
fascinating Cabinet War Rooms and also as a fitting memorial to the
men and women who worked so hard down there over six gruelling
years of war. -- Andrew Roberts * Observer *
Scholarly but accessible ... [Holmes] keeps things lively and colourful ... with his personal portraiture of Churchill the man, whose penchant for Pol Roger Champagne late-night ramblings and bedside briefings are all there. -- Daniel Bentley * Press Association *
A worthy and evocative addition to the ever-growing mountain of Churchilliana. -- Vernon Bogdanor * Financial Times *
Intriguing -- Christopher Silvester * Daily Express *
Richard Holmes's Churchill's Bunker is a bright and fascinating new book devoted to where and how Churchill often lived and ruled during the first years of the war. Bright, because it illuminates, literally, the underground warren of sunless rooms where Churchill's staff functioned below blackened London streets. Fascinating, because both the origins and the conditions of this subterranean headquarters, as well as Churchill's presence in and absence from it, were not at all simple. -- John Lukacs, author of Five Days in London
Loads of people will love this book ... it is imbued with Richard Holmes's passion for the period. -- Margaret Forster
A fascinating and invaluable insight into the secret catacombs under Whitehall where Winston Churchill planned British war strategy, spoke to President Roosevelt through scrambler telephone, and broadcast his inspirational messages of defiance to Nazism. -- Andrew Roberts, author of Masters and Commanders
With this vivid and compelling combination of grand strategy and human detail Richard Holmes brings to life a very British and surprisingly effective war-time government, and the improvised bunker in which it operated. -- Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman