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The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms is a museum in London and one of the five branches of the Imperial War Museummarker. The Cabinet War Rooms are an underground complex that had been used as an operational command and control centre by the British government throughout the Second World War. Located beneath the Treasurymarker building in the Whitehallmarker area of Westminstermarker, the facilities were abandoned in August 1945 after the surrender of Japan. The Rooms were opened to the general public in 1984, having previously been managed by the Department for the Environmentmarker. Following a major expansion in 2003, the Rooms were reopened in 2005 as the rebranded Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, with the additional space developed as a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill.

Construction and wartime use

The Cabinet War Rooms became operational in 1939 and were heavily used by Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet during World War II. Engineered as a bunker, the facility was reinforced with a layer of concrete, one to three metres thick referred to as 'the slab'". Over 100 meetings were held in the Cabinet War Rooms between 1939 and 1945.

The section of the War Rooms open to the public is only a portion of a much larger facility. They originally covered three acres (12,000m²) and housed a staff of up to 528 people, with facilities including a canteen, hospital, shooting range and dormitories. The centrepiece of the War Rooms is the Cabinet Room itself, where Churchill's War Cabinet met. The Map Room is located nearby, from where the course of the war was directed. It is still in much the same condition as when it was abandoned, with the original maps still on the walls and telephones lining the desks. Churchill slept in a small nearby bedroom although, according to the audio presentation in the museum, he only slept in the war rooms for three nights over the course of the war. One feature of the bunker was a telephone scrambler system that allowed Churchill to securely speak with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White Housemarker. The unit was concealed as the prime minister's lavatory.

Abandonment and preservation

Following the end of the war the Cabinet War Rooms became redundant and were abandoned. Their maintenance became the responsibility of the Ministry of Works and later the Department for the Environmentmarker. While the Rooms were open to the public, they could only be accessed by appointment and access was restricted to small groups.

Opening

In the early 1980s interest in the Rooms increased and the government looked at options to increase the public’s access to them. In 1984 the Rooms were opened to the public after cooperation between the Imperial War Museum and the Property Services Agency. In 1989 responsibility for the Rooms was transferred to the Imperial War Museum.

Redevelopment

In 2003, nine rooms used by Churchill and his closest associates (including his wife), which had been stripped out after the war and used for storage, were added to the museum. These rooms are known as "The Churchill Suite". The Churchill Museum itself opened in February 2005. It is a chronological exhibition telling the story of Churchill's public and private life, using original and facsimile objects and documents and interactive display techniques. It contains the world's largest interactive display called 'The Lifeline' which covers the events and activities that took place over the course of Churchill's 90 year life.

Entry to both the Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms is by one combined ticket.

Image:Cabinet war rooms.jpg|The public entrance to the museum. When in use, access was from the buildings above and underground tunnels. The Rooms are in the basement of the Treasury buildingmarker, visible in the foreground. The building behind is the Foreign and Commonwealth Officemarker.Image:MapRoomCabinetWarRooms20060617 CopyrightKaihsuTai.jpg|The Map Room at the Cabinet War Rooms.

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