Wartime Britain

There are some fascinating places to go to discover more about Britain’s wartime past including the chance to see secret underground tunnels, code-breaking machines, and World War II and Cold War bunkers as well as some outstanding military museums.

Bletchley Park

This Victorian mansion house was the home of secret intelligence service during World War II. You can get a guide tour of the main points of interest around the site and find out how the Enigma and Lorenz codes were broken.

Perhaps the most famous part of Bletchley Park are the code-breaking Enigma cipher machines,  including the Abwehr G312, and the various exhibitions and displays tell the stories of how British spies gained critical information from the Germans about their wartime plans that helped the Allied forces. There are also reconstructions of a wartime garage, post office, home front and radio and toy collections.

Bletchley Park is also recognised as the birthplace of the modern computer and where the genius mathematician Alan Turing worked on the early prototypes. A celebration of his work, along with groundbreaking examples of computing machines that changed the world can be seen at the National Museum of Computing.



The presence of Sir Winston Churchill lives on at the Kent family home he bought in 1924 and where he lived for most of his life. The house was unoccupied for most of the war because of its vulnerability to German bombing and special forces attack, but despite this, Churchill was known to have visited the house during the war years.

The house and gardens have magnificent views over the Weald of Kent and the property has been preserved by the National Trust® to appear much as they would have been while he lived there. The rooms are packed with over 5 000 items of Churchill memorabilia including collections that illustrate his wide variety of interests and his own paintings.


Dover Castle’s secret wartime tunnels

Situated above the white cliffs of Dover, Dover Castle has protected Britain from foreign invaders for over 2000 years, and is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent  castles to visit in its own right. A major new attraction has opened in 2011 to highlight wartime life underground from the Napoleonic Wars to the Cold War, and in particular, the use of the secret wartime tunnels under the castle during World War II operations.

The highlight of the secret tunnels exhibition is Operation Dynamo, showing how the tunnels were used to mastermind the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940 (codenamed ‘Dynamo’) through walk-through state-of-the-art special effects, film footage and 60m wall projections.

Other points of interest include a reconstruction of a wartime military hospital and operating theatre and you can see fragments from Nagasaki and Hiroshima representing the time when the tunnels were used as a bunker in event of nuclear war.


Hughenden Manor

The former home of Victorian Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli in the Buckinghamshire countryside played an unlikely role housing teams of designers, architects and map makers that helped the Allied bombing offensives including the Dam Buster raids, D-Day landings and an audacious plan to attack Hitler’s secret bunker at Berchtesgaden.

Close to Bomber Command at Naphill, the house was inconspicuous and is mainly hidden from view by trees making it an ideal location for the RAF and secret intelligence to create maps showing the exact bombing locations within Germany for Operation Hillside.


York Cold War bunker

Perhaps the most spine-chilling of all English Heritage® properties, the cold war semi-subterranean bunker in York tells the secret story of one of the nerve centres in the event of nuclear attack during the 1960s right up to the 1990s.

Built in 1961, the reinforced bunker of the No.20 Group Royal Observer Corps HQ was designed to withstand nuclear impact with blast-proof doors and would have been used to monitor explosions and fall-out in the Yorkshire area.

Guided tours take you through the decontamination rooms, communications rooms, kitchens, dormitories, radio, computer and illuminated map room for the military personnel who would have been entombed from a nuclear-devastated world outside.

Opens every Sunday and bank holidays from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm by hour-long tours only, departing at regular intervals. Visits include a short PG-rated film.


Imperial War Museum

The most well-known military museum in Britain has its main site at Lambeth Road, Waterloo, but there are also other centres such as the Duxford Air Museum.

The war museum is in no way a celebration of war and sensitively covers military history and conflicts around the world from World War 1 to date. It does however have extensive collections of artillery, tanks, aircraft, land and naval weaponry.

Highlights of the museum include the large exhibits gallery, secret war exhibition, children’s war, 1939 outbreak, heroes' stories, themed art and the Holocaust exhibition.


Cabinet War Rooms

This secret underground bunker offers a fascinating glimpse into the underground basement shelter for Churchill’s government and military command during World War II and is one of the highest rated attractions of its kind.

Run by the Imperial War Museum and located in Whitehall, the Cabinet War Rooms were setup in 1938 when war was looming and were designed to allow work to continue throughout the air raids. Churchill himself was a regular visitor to the room complex and had living quarters there.

Highlights include the map room, Cabinet room, the Churchill Suite, State Room, and the trans-Atlantic telephone room. Steeped in history, there is an excellent self-guided audio tour describing each area.


Virtual tour - http://www.pan3sixty.co.uk/tours/cwr/choose.html



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