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New Museum Commemorates the 40th Anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill's Death

NEW YORK -- Sir Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s most influential leaders of all time, played an integral role in leading the allied forces to victory during World War II. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of his death and the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, VisitBritain, the national tourist authority for England, Scotland and Wales, encourages U.S. travelers to visit sites associated with this legendary leader.

A new Churchill museum in London

In the once secret underground headquarters of his wartime government, The Churchill Museum, the first museum dedicated to the life and times of Sir Winston Churchill, will open to the public in London in February 2005. The museum will be part of a major restoration and expansion of the Cabinet War Rooms, in a fortified basement beneath government buildings in Whitehall, which look today just as they did during the war.

The Churchill Museum will provide an intimate and multifaceted portrayal of Sir Winston’s private and public life, as well as his talents and flaws, illustrated with documents and photographs from the Imperial War Museum and the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge. Much of the material will be on public display for the first time and, in setting it within an historic location, the scene of his “finest hour,” the museum will address the vital themes of leadership and nationhood. Exhibits will be divided into the five major chapters of Sir Winston’s life and career: his early life and emerging character; politician to statesman; his
period out of office leading opposition to appeasement with Nazi Germany; as war leader; and cold war statesman.

Visitors to the Cabinet War Rooms will feel they have stepped back into World War II as they wander through the same rooms, corridors and tunnels where Sir Winston met with his military and intelligence chiefs and his war cabinet while bombs rained on London. Meeting rooms, the map room and Sir Winston’s private room still contain all their wartime contents, including an array of brightly-colored telephones nicknamed the “beauty chorus” by those who worked there.

Among other areas opened to visitors are bedrooms, sitting rooms and communications rooms, including the Transatlantic Telephone Room in which Sir Winston discussed the war with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the American-provided “hot-line.” The Cabinet War Rooms are open daily (except December 24 - 26) and admission is priced at £7 (about $12.50).

Blenheim Palace, Chartwell, and Bletchley Park are open to the public

The war rooms are among several historic buildings in London and in south-east England associated with Sir Winston Churchill and which are opened to visitors.

These buildings include Blenheim Palace (his birthplace), Chartwell (his country home), and Bletchley Park (the site for cracking secret codes during the war), as well as the Houses of Parliament, (a member for six decades) and House of Commons (he has served as Britain’s wartime prime minister).

Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill near Oxford, is considered one of the finest examples of English baroque architecture and the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough. It was never his home, for the estate passed to his cousin, the ninth duke who was a lifelong friend, but his family roots were there. It is in the nearby village churchyard at Bladon that Sir Winston Churchill is buried alongside his parents, Lord Randolph Churchill and American-born Lady Jennie Churchill.

Visitors to Blenheim can see his birthplace, in a room west of the Great Hall in a suite of relatively plainly furnished apartments once occupied by the first duke’s domestic chaplain, and enjoy a stroll in the gardens to see the Temple of Diana where he proposed to Clementine Hozier. An exhibition includes Sir Winston’s painting of the Great Hall and family mementos. Blenheim is open daily from February 12 through December 11, 2005.

Chartwell, Sir Winston’s family home from 1924 until his death in 1965, is near Sevenoaks in the county of Kent, south-east of London. Rooms and gardens remain much as they were when he lived there, with family photographs and memorabilia, uniforms and insignia, his extensive library, and the dining room set for afternoon tea.

The gardens have stunning views over the countryside known as the Weald of Kent and there are black swans on the lake he created. A garden studio contains many of his paintings. Chartwell, which is in the care of the National Trust, is open between March and November and admission in 2004 was £7 (about $12.50).

Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, 50 miles north-west of London, is where the German armed forces’ top secret codes were broken during World War II, thus providing Churchill and the Allies with vital information towards their war effort. Bletchley Park, an impressive Victorian mansion, is open daily, allowing visitors to see the code rooms and code-breaking equipment.

In London, Sir Winston Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square overlooks the Houses of Parliament and he is also commemorated in several places inside the House of Commons, including a statue in the members’ lobby and an entranceway into the house known as Churchill Arch.

The statues can be seen on public tours of the Houses of Parliament, officially known as the Palace of Westminster, which take place during Parliament’s summer recess.

Many of the most important of Sir Winston’s papers, among them letters, writings (which earned him a Nobel Prize) and wartime speeches are housed in the Churchill Archives Centre in Churchill College, Cambridge. They can be viewed only by appointment.

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