Tag Archives: Churchill War Rooms

Battle of Britain – 70th Anniversary

the Battle of Britain
Pilots rushing off to fight in the skies of Britain - mural on Victoria Embankment London

I have mentioned before how much I love that this country marks their significant anniversaries, and the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain is no different. Today saw one of the events that have been held to mark this significant event in the history of the UK.  I remember when I first felt the impact of this event, I was about 14 years old at the time, living in South Africa and although I was of British decent, I really did not know much about the country beyond what we learned in school and the memories of my Grandfather – who gave me his War Medals when I was about 15 or so (sadly they got stolen during one of numerous burgleries we experienced in SA).

When I recall the movie ‘The Battle of Britain’ that I saw back then, it still gives me goosebumps.  I sobbed for days afterwards and never forgot the impact it had on me.  I have since had a long-held fascination with WW2. Now to be living in the UK is just beyond amazing to me.  The last few weeks have of course seen many events leading up to the date – today a ‘Fly-Past’.

flypast
flypast in London
Battle of Britain - Spitfire Mk1
Spitfire Mk1 c1940 - Battle of Britain

A bit of history: The Battle of Britain (German: Luftschlacht um England or Luftschlacht um Großbritannien) is the name given to the air campaign waged by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940. The objective of the campaign was to gain air superiority over the Royal Air Force (RAF), especially Fighter Command. The name derives from a famous speech delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the House of Commons: “The Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin………” 

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill on the far right
Battle of Britain - 70th Anniversary
view of St Paul's in the mural dedicated to the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
an iconic image of St Paul's - like a phoenix arising from the ashes

I recently went walk-about through London….as I do :) and along the Victoria Embankment is a wonderful memorial reminding us of the Men and Women who so bravely fought against this invasion; a poignant reminder –  Lest we Forget.

Battle of Britain mural on Victoria Embankment - London
Battle of Britain memorial - Victoria Embankment London

Since then the famous quote by Churchill has become part of that history….  “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”. Winston Churchill – On the Battle of Britain – now remembered as one of his most significant quotes.

The British Ambassador’s response to a German ultimatum:
“We’re not easily frightened. Also we know how hard it is for an army to cross the Channel — the last little corporal to try it came a cropper. So don’t threaten or dictate to us until you’re marching up Whitehall! …and even then we won’t listen!”

Churchill War Rooms
entrance to the underground bunker at Whitehall

The ‘spirit’ of  WW2 lives on…………….

Churchill War Rooms and The Battle of Britain 1940

 “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”. Winston Churchill – The Prime Minister

Winston Churchill
picture of Winston Churchill on the far right. this photo hangs in the foyer of the War Rooms

2010 marks the 70th anniversary of  The Battle of Britain – the Battle fought over Britain the summer of 1940, generally agreed to be between the 10th July and 31st October 1940.  On 28th August 2010, a Hurricane and Spitfire flew over parts of England and the English channel, that saw some of the fiercest aerial combats, on a commemorative flight alongside an Airbus A320, as part of the Battle of Britain 70th anniversary celebrations. Fourteen Battle of Britain veterans took to the skies in this special memorial flight accompanied for part of the way by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the period.  The battle for air supremacy, involving 71 Fighter Command squadrons and allies from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and across Europe, between the RAF and the Luftwaffe in 1940 was a decisive chapter in WW2.

Spitfire Mk1
a replica of the iconic Spitfire Mk1 that fought in the skies over Britain and Europe during WW2

Last week, while I was on walkabout through London, part of my journey took me past the Churchill War Rooms, situated off Horse Guards Parade, between King Charles Street and Parliament Square.  Today the Churchill War Rooms, are an outstanding place to explore life on the home front, as you wander through the Cabinet War Rooms which operated round the clock from the beginning of the war in 1939 to its end in August 1945.

Churchill War Rooms London
Churchill War Rooms - situated below ground under the War Offices off Horse Guards Parade

I was thrilled to see a replica Spitfire Mk1 outside on the pavement. (I was also dismayed to discover that the day after my visit they hosted an anniversary event! :( if I had but known……..)  However, at the time I did not, so with that depressing knowledge still in the future, I made my way downstairs to have a quick peek.  I did not go on the tour this time around as my time was limited, but from what I did see….it looks awesome….I will be back.  While I was underground I saw this photo hanging on the wall… one of the most endearing and iconic photos of the war.

St Paul's Cathedral during WW2
like a phoenix arising from the ashes....St Paul's Cathedral photographed during WW2

I spent a few more minutes looking around and then made my way back aboveground and into the present, where I enjoyed some time admiring and photographing the Spitfire.

Spitfire Mk1 in front of the Churchill War Rooms
a replica of the iconic Spitfire Mk1, on display in front of the Churchill War Rooms
Royal Air Force and The Battle of Britain
a story board in front of the Spitfire telling the story...in brief

On the same pavement area and just a few feet away is this heart-breakingly beautiful memorial to the 202 people who lost their lives in the October 12th, 2002 Bali bombing.  It is greatly upsetting to see the ages of the victims, as young as 18 years. 

memorial to the 202 innocent lives lost during the Bali bombings
a heart-breakingly beautiful memorial to the 202 innocent lives lost.... a place of peace and quiet contemplation

This is one of the traits of Britain that I truly love…… the memorials that dot the city and the country; memorials to people who lost their lives in acts of terrorism or acts of nature and accidents. Lest we forget………….

The Churchill War Rooms can be found just off King Charles Street between Horse Guards Parade and Parliament Street. 

Clive Steps King Charles Street London
the entrance to the Churchill War Rooms view from across Horse Guards Road, just outside St James's Park

The Old War Office, a magnificent building designed in the baroque style, served as the centre of all military affairs in the British empire between the late 18th Century and 1963, the decisions made in this building completely changed the world forever, painting a 3rd of the world pink, then eventually creating the commonwealth and dismantling the empire. 

Old War Offices - Westminster
a statue of Lord Mountbatten in an enclosed garden situted between The Old War Offices and Horse Guards Parade

 It was from these rooms that the First World War battles were masterminded and the Second World War was won. (and no it’s not an illusion, the buildings do appear to be lopsided…they are not…it’s my photo! I have no idea why, perhaps coz I took it while in a hurry).
 nearest tube station: Westminster – Jubilee Line

Churchill War Rooms, Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AQ
Open daily 9.30am – 6.00pm – last admission 5.oopm (closed 24, 25 and 26 December) There is an entrance fee.