Churchill with Montgomery and Monty's dog, Rommel, on August 7 1944. © IWM
A permanent museum dedicated to the life of Sir Winston Churchill opens to the public on Friday February 11 at the Cabinet War Rooms, London.
Part of a £6 million, 10-year project, the Winston Churchill museum forms part of the Cabinet War Rooms complex underneath the Treasury buildings in Westminster. It is the first permanent museum dedicated to the former Prime Minister in the UK.
Staff from the Imperial War Museum joined representatives of the Churchill family and veterans of Churchill’s personal staff at a launch on Wednesday February 9 prior to the official opening by HM The Queen on Thursday February 10.
Winston Spencer Churchill gets to grips with the Churchill Timeline. © 24 Hour Museum
“I think this is a very exciting day,” said Churchill’s grandson, Winston Spencer Churchill, “not only for the Churchill family, but also for the country as a whole to have a museum dedicated to a man who was recently voted the greatest Briton of all time.
“For me the most important part of the museum is its educational value,” he added, “and I’m thrilled they’ve placed an emphasis on getting large numbers of schoolchildren through here.”
The interactive timeline delivers thousands of documents and photographs at the touch of a cursor. © 24 Hour Museum.
To help capture young minds and central to the new venture sits a specially developed computerised timeline - packed with hundreds and thousands of digital documents relating to Churchill’s life and all delivered at the touch of a cursor.
“This is the Churchill Museum, so we have to be as comprehensive as possible,” said Churchill Museum Director Phil Reed. “It’s a groundbreaking museum like no other and the difficulty could have been that it was dull – but this is far from dull.”
The red velvet siren suit - one of many specially made for Churchill by a Saville Row tailor. © 24 Hour Museum.
As well as the timeline the 9000 square foot museum features a wealth of artefacts, including Churchill’s christening gown, the old door of Number 10 Downing Street and other well know items such as hats, cigars and his signature 'siren suits'.
There are also never before seen photographs, documents and films obtained from a variety of sources and presented using the latest in digital technology.
Fascinating footage includes scenes from an impromptu desert conference from the North Africa campaign of World War Two. © 24 Hour Museum
Staff promise the Museum will also explore the highs and the lows of the great Statesman’s life. “We don’t dodge issues,” said Mr Reed, “whether it be Singapore, Gallipoli or his notorious Gestapo speech, they are all here…as well as the glories of his life.”
Five veterans who worked with Churchill during and after the Second World War were also on hand for a photo call under the watchful gaze of their former employer’s portrait.
Former members of Churchill's staff assembled for a group portrait at the launch. © 24 Hour Museum.
Lady Williams of Elvel – Churchill’s post-war secretary, joined wartime secretary Elizabeth Nel, whilst Joan Bright Astley, the Archivist and Executive Secretary at the Cabinet War Rooms was present together with Olive Margerison, Secretary to General Hollis during the Second World War.
Wendy Maxwell, the Wartime press secretary was also in attendance as was Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Mather who commanded the bearer party for Churchill’s State Funeral.
'Churchilliana' in one the musem's display cases. © 24 Hour Museum.
“People sometimes forget that Churchill was an MP for the best part - almost two thirds - of the 20th century,” said Churchill historian David Reynolds. “He dealt with issues such as the rise of working class politics and the labour party; issues of Empire and dramatic changes in technology. The Museum introduces you to some of these great issues.”
To coincide with the opening, just around the corner at Westminster Hall, the BBC has also unveiled their ‘Churchill memorial sculpture’ created by sculptor Paul de Monchaux.
Churchill memorial sculpture by sculptor Paul de Monchaux residing in Westminster Hall - just yards from the spot where Churchill's body was laid - prior to his State Funeral in 1965. © 24 Hour Museum.
The memorial is the result of the BBC TWO series ‘Great Britons’ in which Sir Winston Churchill was voted the nation's greatest Briton by television viewers. It is on free public view in Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament until early April.
Both the opening of the museum and the unveiling of the sculpture have been timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Sir Winston’s death as well as the forthcoming 60th anniversary of VE-Day.