In 1666, the medieval city all but disappeared in the Great Fire of London. The city was rebuilt on the footprint of its predecessor, but once again fell in danger of destruction during the Blitz of 1940-1941. One of the worst nights was the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's Day, December 29, 1940, when German planes devastated the area around St Paul’s while most Londoners were enjoying their Christmas break. Those working on the ground dubbed it 'The Second Great Fire of London. On this London WWII Tour, led by a local historian, we'll explore this dark chapter of the city's history, and discover how Churchill's leadership and England's resilience allowed them to overcome the fierce bombings.
Our walk will start at the Museum of London with its post-1666 galleries, a recent addition, where we will discuss the life of Londoners before and during the war. We will continue with a walk into the Barbican and then to Guildhall, telling the story of that fateful night in 1940 and the people who fought to save what they could of the city and its people. Thanks to the vigilance of the firewatchers on the roof of St Paul's, the cathedral, a symbol of strength for Londoners, was saved.
Much of the City of London was rebuilt, and most important buildings were restored while others were removed altogether. We will see sites that fit into both categories: churches carefully put back together and others that were left as ruins—a memorial to that awful night. We will pass by the original location of St. Mary Aldermanbury, dismantled and shipped to Fulton, Missouri after the war.
Our walk will end at St. Paul's (which we delve further into on our St. Paul's Cathedral Tour), in which we will learn more about the church that helped sustain the spirit of the city's residents. If time and stamina allow, we will climb to the very top, above the dome, and marvel at the roofs of the cathedral, so carefully protected every night by its teams of volunteers. From there, we have a bird's eye view of the city through which we have been walking.
Finishing our tour, we'll come away with an understanding of how fragile the fabric of cities really are. We will also develop a deeper knowledge at the havoc caused by both the two 'Great Fires' of London and how the local community came together on both occasions, to restore the city to its former glory.
Note: This walk can be customized to include the Churchill War Rooms.
To discover more about how London was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London, we suggest our Christopher Wren Churches Tour.
Where do we meet? Where does it end?
The walk begins near the Museum of London and ends at St. Paul's. Your confirmation email will have the exact meeting point details along with a map, and emergency phone number.
Do we go inside the venues or just see them from the outside?
We will go inside the Museum of London and St. Paul's.
What if it’s raining?
Tours operate rain or shine, but most of this tour takes place indoors. It never hurts to have an umbrella on hand.
Is this a walking intensive tour?
This walk covers about 1 mile overall. There are occasional opportunities to sit, use the bathroom, and get something to drink if needed.
Uncover the man behind the image at the Churchill Museum, the only major museum in the world dedicated to the life and legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. Using cutting edge technology and a mixture of media displays, the undeniably exciting story of this historical figure is brought to life. Visitors can explore the complex nature of his life, long political career and also investigate the private man, his successes and failures.
The Cabinet War Rooms: Churchill’s wartime bunker is a fascinating piece of living history; an underground maze of rooms that once buzzed with round-the-clock planning and plotting, strategies and secrets. As you explore the historic rooms for yourself, you can imagine what life would have been like during the tense days and nights of the Second World War.
The Churchill Museum: Uncover the man behind the image at the Churchill Museum, the only major museum in the world dedicated to the life and legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. Using cutting-edge technology and multimedia displays, Churchill’s story is brought to life, starting at the high point of his career – his appointment as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940.
Hear extracts from Churchill’s rousing wartime speeches as you stand on the squares to activate Churchill’s voice delivering now-familiar phrases such as ‘Blood, toil, tears and sweat’ and ‘We shall fight them on the beaches’. Nearby stands the original No. 10 door that Churchill walked through after becoming Prime Minister.
Meet your guide in central London, and then set off on a walking tour around Westminster, the central London borough and home of British espionage that became the target of heavy bombing during WWII. Learn about the government staff who sheltered from the bombs in bunkers beneath Westminster’s streets, and hear tales of Churchill and his charismatic leadership during the Blitz and beyond. Your guide has intimate knowledge of the London area as well as its WWII history.
After taking in classic London landmarks such as 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, stop at the Cenotaph — a famous British war memorial — to pay your respects to the fallen, and then pose for photos by the Statue of Winston Churchill.
Next, bid your guide a fond farewell and head underground to independently explore the wartime bunker of the Churchill War Rooms, a hastily created office that served as the British war cabinet’s hub throughout the duration of WWII.
Your first stop inside the site is Churchill Museum, an interactive exhibition space dedicated to the wartime leader. A piece of living history, the museum is home to an array of Churchill artifacts such as cigars and outfits as well as audio recordings of his inspiring wartime speeches. Hear little-known facts and anecdotes about the leader’s private and public life, and learn of the ‘special relationship’ he cultivated with President Roosevelt — a relationship that changed the course of history.
After visiting the museum, plug into your included audio guide and set off to discover the rest of the war rooms. The underground maze of bunkers and corridors became the home of secret government staff during the war, and many staff didn’t even see natural light from day to day. Learn about their isolation beneath ground, and hear of the top-secret conversations and day-to-day domestic crises that took place.
How long you spend inside the Churchill War Rooms is up to you, but many visitors find 1.5 hours to be sufficient.
On August 27, 1896, Britain declared war on its protectorate Zanzibar, where a pretender to the Sultanate had just siezed power.
At 9:02am, British ships in the habor began shelling the would-be Sultan's palace.
By 9:40, the shelling had stopped, the palace was on fire, and the pretender's flag had been cut down.
At 38 minutes, the Anglo-Zanzibar War remains the shortest war on record.
Some 500 Zanzibaris were killed.
One British Petty Officer was wounded.