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Not Richard Holmes best work
on 4 January 2011
Churchill's Bunker is something of a disappointment: it is lively in places, but slow - even staid - at the beginning. It is about the Cabinet War Rooms where the British High Command plotted WWII. Rather than read the book, I can tell you it is certainly better to visit the Rooms, now a part of the Imperial War Museum, instead. But if you cannot do that easily, then perhaps this book gives you some idea of what to look forward to, and even if you don't enjoy the book, the Rooms themselves deserve a visit by ever lover of history.
The book opens with the genesis of the War Rooms prior to WWII, and moves into the occupation and occupants in about 1940. It covers the movements of the staff overseas for various conferences - and really it's a book on Churchill for this period - but the best bit is the chapter on life underground for the ordinary inhabitants, and here the book shines. There is a coda about the development of the rooms as museum in the 1980's.
More discussion of the "secret" nature of the Rooms would have been interesting, as would some greater evaluation of the risk that occupancy of the complex posed: apparently the Rooms were by no means bomb-proof, and the Rooms were in the heart of Whitehall, which one would think would have been a prime Luftwaffe target.
Holmes usually writes better than this, but there is still enough good here to make reading worthwhile.