Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Churchill Series – Sept. 25, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

A few blocks from the Prime Minister’s office and residence at 10 Downing Street is The Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum. It was there that an underground facility served as Churchill’s principal shelter during bombing raids.

But why did Churchill use the shelter there instead of one at 10 Downing?

In Their Finest Hour, the second volume of his WWII memoirs, Churchill explains:

Downing Street consists of houses two hundred and fifty years old, shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear.

At the time of this Munich alarm, shelters had been constructed for the occupants of Number 10 and Number 11, and the rooms on the garden level had had their ceilings propped up with a wooden under-ceiling and strong timbers. It was believed that this would support the ruins if the building was blown or shaken down; but of course neither these rooms nor the shelters were effective against a direct hit.

During the last fortnight of September, preparations were made to transfer my Ministerial Headquarters to the more modern and solid Government offices looking over St. James’s Park by Storey’s Gate. These quarters we called “the Annexe.”

Below them were the War Room and a certain amount of bomb-proof sleeping accommodation. The bombs at this time were of course smaller than those of the later phases. Still, in the interval before the new apartments were ready, life at Downing Street was exciting. One might as well have been at a battalion headquarters in the line.
It’s often thought “the Annexe” was so named because it was a kind of functional annex (Amer. spelling) to the PM’s Downing Street office and residence.

But I’ve been told that’s not the case; and that the building which housed the War Rooms and shelter was called “the Annexe” because it was the annex to the Treasury office.

Does anyone know for certain?

The passage quoted above is found on pgs. 344-345 of Their Finest Hour( Houghton Mifflin Co., 1949)


Danvers said...

Hi John,

I visited the Cabinet War Rooms some years ago, and from what I remember they are a block away from Downing Street, in the sub-basement of what was the Ministry of Works, and next door to the Treasury. I believe it is the Annexe to the Treasury, not the Annexe to 10 Downing St, which appears to be a different building