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Churchill Museum within the Cabinet War Rooms

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Cabinet war rooms

Ever seeking more knowledge, some people say I am full of useless information, and my visit to the Churchill and Cabinet War Rooms in Central London, gave me the opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest leaders of British history, Winston Churchill (1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955).

The secret underground bunker which served as the Cabinet War Rooms in the Second World War, where the Chiefs of Staff and the Prime Minister worked continuously from 1939 to 1945.

Within the facilities, Winston Churchill, as well as other person holding high positions in the armed services, had his own bedroom, office and other amenities. There was a kitchen which catered for his eating requirements, and also a bedroom for his wife Clementine. To keep in touch with other world leaders but especially USA President Roosevelt, within Shefridges on Oxford Street, a special room called the Transatlantic Room was created, with a secure telephone/radio connection using a scrambler device called Sigsaly installed.

Cabinet war rooms

The Transmission Room in the Cabinet War Rooms, London

was 40 tons of equipment, shipped from the USA and installed in the basement of Shefridges on Oxford Street. Another Sigsaly was installed in the Pentagon in the USA, and it was said the scrambled signal generated was “almost” impenetrable. Having now learned of the secret decoding work by the British at Bletchley Park, I wonder if the Germans had broken Sigsaly.

Within the bunker of the Cabinet War Rooms, is a very large space which was partitioned off for use by various departments of the Chiefs of Staff and the War Cabinet during WWII, as since 2005 become the Churchill Museum.

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace into the Spencer family on 30 November 1874, he came from a aristocratic family, his father being Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill being the 7th Duke of Marlborough, his mother was an American.

Churchill was sent away to boarding schools, and had little contact with his parents despite his repeated requests for his mother to visit him. He was not a good student other than English and history, and his poor results could be attributed to him having dyslexia. Churchill also had a speech impediment, especially noticeable was his lisp, having difficulty pronouncing the letter “S” and, it has been said a stutter. All these problems did not deter Churchill, as he said, “My impediment is no hindrance“, and he became a great author and speech maker.

Despite having to take the entrance exam three times, he was accepted into the Royal Military Academy, better known as Sandhurst, to become an officer in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, using his family connections to be posted on active duties. It was from these campaigns that the public started to know him through his writings as a war correspondent, and writing his own books on the campaigns.

Throughout his life he was a world traveler, and in the military his campaigns to him to Cuba, India, Malakand (now Pakistan), Sudan and South Africa. He became First Lord of the Admiralty at the start of World War I.

His first try in politics in 1899 was in the English constituency of Oldham, where he stood for the seat to the British Parliament, and lost the vote. But, in the 1900 General Election he won his seat to Parliament in the same constituency of Oldham. In the 1906 General Election he had changed his political party from the Conservatives to the Liberals, and stood for the Manchester North West Constituency which again he won, only having the seat for two years, when he was elected as member of Parliament for Dundee. He became a high powered member of the Liberal Government, helping to pass many reforms.

During World War 1, Churchill again rejoined the military to fight, having the rank of Colonel in the Royal Scots Fusiliers but still being an MP (Member of Parliament).

In 1922 he lost his Dundee parliamentary seat, and despite standing for other constituencies, was not returned to Parliament until 1924 for Epping.

Throughout the following years, Churchill had many positions in the British Government, but also he feel out of favour sometimes, and had periods of obscurity. It was after the start of the Second World War, that Churchill again gained power being given the job of The First Lord of the Admiralty.

When the then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned due to the lack of confidence the county had in him in his handling of the outbreak of the war, Churchill was asked to become Prime Minister. 10 May 1940.

Throughout the Second World War, Churchill led the British nation with inspiration, his speeches were well thought out and rehearsed, that rallied the nation to fight on to the end. He formed good working relationships with other world leaders, Roosevelt, Truman, Stalin.

Some of Churchill’s greatest speeches contained now famous lines which rallied and inspired the embattled people of Britain and the world:-

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat“.
“….… we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

At the end of WWII, the British people voted Churchill’s Government out of power in the 1945 election, and he would lead the opposition party until the General Election of 1951,  he resigned in 1955.

All this history and more is on display in the Churchill Museum, along with his famous jump suits, his awards, his medals. They are displayed in such a way that it is as if one is having a personal tour. For example, his many famous speeches, which I have never appreciated before can be heard, by standing is one spot, the clever sound system delivers Churchill as if he is standing in front of you. You can sit and watch films and hear the commentary which hardly interferes with the other visitors.

Although as a young boy, not being old enough to have really experienced his leadership first hand, I remember vividly his State Funeral, not often given to commoners in the UK, after his death at the age of 90 on 24th January 1965. The whole nation stopped to view it on the TV’s. There, in the Churchill Museum were the same pictures, and I felt the emotion of the time once again, as tear welled up in my eyes.

Throughout his life Churchill wrote many books and articles. His speeches are orinspiring and are I have now found out, worth listening to for their content and construc
tion, In 1953 was award the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Here again there is a physical link back to the Bletchley Park in the 21 Century, for in one of the buildings is the Churchill Collect, a vast private collect of Churchill memorabilia. Winston Churchill visited Bletchley Park many time and said of the workers that they were :-

The geese that laid the golden eggs – but never cackled.”

Culture is changing fast in the UK.

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Christmas lights in Kingston upon Thames

I have been writing a little about culture, especially when I heard a participant say on a recent course,  “this is *?&$£: culture, and it will not change.”

After taking some of my relatives on a small walk after our meal in London’s China Town into Piccadilly Circus, then up Regent Street to Oxford Circus and Oxford Street, I was wondering what is happening to the British traditional Christmas celebrations, our cultural heritage, it is changing.

For a start the traditional street lights put up for Christmas lacked the festive message. They had nothing to do with what Christmas stands for, the tradition, OK the religious meaning, not even a Santa Clause and his reindeer.

In London’s Regent Street, the lights were just clusters of balls hung in the middle of the street changing colour. Perhaps they are one company’s identity or logo. Pathetic.

Xmas London Regent Street lights
Regent Street Xmas lights
In Oxford Street the street lights were not much better. Sorry about the blurred picture, I was shaking with cold.

Xmas London Oxford Street lights
Oxford Street Xmas lightsAt least the traditional Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square was there with some Carol-Singers, singing to the onlookers. The Christmas tree is a tradition, where the people of Oslo, Norway, send a tree to be placed in Trafalgar Square every year as a thank you for the effort of the British people in the Second World War to their country.

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

Trafalgar Square Xmas Tree

In Kingston upon Thames (20/12/2007) the lights were more festive, and this town is very multicultural, being a major shopping center for the area. If they can do it, why not Central London?

Christmas lights in Kingston upon Thames

Christmas lights in Kingston upon Thames

Britain is becoming too PC, too politically correct, as the UK is being settled by peoples from many nations of the world, for fear of upsetting these people, with other traditions, other cultures, other religions.

The tradition of holding the nativity play in the UK primary schools, where the young children would act the birth of Christ, has in some schools been dropped, withdrawn, as it may upset some of the minority of other faiths that have settled in the UK.

There was the case of a large worldwide media company having to cancel the traditional Christmas Party, usually held by organisations at this time of year, because two (2) people object to the word “Christmas” being used, even though there were I believe nearly 3,000 other staff who had no objection to the word.

The Christmas cards we send to our friends, some years ago would have said “Happy Christmas”. Now we read “Seasons Greetings”.

The culture and traditions of the British people is changing as is should do as more and more people settle in the UK, bringing their culture and traditions into the melting pot of life.

But I do think that these new people, incomers, should be more tolerant to others beliefs and culture of the countries they settle into, and those people who are trying to be politically correct go and visit certain countries in the Middle East, etc and witness their holidays.

But such is life, we have to just accept change or we will get upset, beat ourselves up, and complain.