Deep under the bustle of Whitehall hides an old sturdy rabbit warren of corridors. Let’s imagine for a second the uniformed men and women who worked down here. Their footsteps echo ahead of us, rushing important communications to the Map Room. The blue haze expelled from cigars and cigarettes cloaks the ceiling, making the rushing figures hazy and indistinct. We rush with them, a glance to the side revealing a stark room with a cot-bed, a desk, a lamp, a washing basin with a jug of water on standby. A telephone’s shrill demand for attention makes us jump; in the distance we can hear the rumble and shudder of distant bombs, the low wail of sirens warning Londoners to beware, to take care. Closer to us a BBC radio announcer’s clipped tones speak over the wireless; we hear the steady click-clack-click of typewriters, a faint floating burst of music, hastily muted. The hands of the clock on the wall point the way to midnight, 6am, midday. Time means nothing down here; it has been cancelled. The smell of sleepless toil, of urgency, of expectancy, soaks through the corridors. That was then.
And this is now. The books and charts in the Map Room have remained exactly as they were left in 1945.
This was Churchill’s bedroom. The walls are covered with maps. The last thing he saw on closing his eyes, and the first thing that greeted him on awakening, was the territory of battle.
One of the many telephones. Whose hand last held the receiver and what was the message?
Of course, we had to look the part...
|Lovely friend R|
...courtesy of the 'vintage boudoir', which I was delighted to find consisted of Fleur at Diary of a Vintage Girl, and her Vintage Mafia! Thanks lovely ladies.
We spoke to museum curators, and followed the drifting sounds of music, past the group sketching caricatures of Churchill at his bulldog best, until we found the dance hall, manned by the London Swing Dance Society. Here we danced the Charleston and the lindy hop, and gathered in a circle for the Big Apple. All too soon it was time to climb the stairs and emerge back onto the street, blinking under the stars.