“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” — Winston Churchill
I just found out I’ve been given a Churchill fellowship. It’s a huge honour and one that reminds me of the choices we can make when dealing with challenges of enormous scale.
Earlier this year, when I was still recovering from Copenhagen and staying with a friend in London, I found myself on the doorsteps of the Churchill war rooms.
There was only an hour until the museum closed, and they advised me to come back tomorrow to get the most out of the experience, but the sun had set and as I looked outside at the dark, cold wintry sleet of London in early January, I decided I’d rather spend an hour somewhere warm and postpone the icy walk home until my toes had defrosted.
About five minutes into my visit I realised this was no ordinary museum. This was the secret underground British government command centre during the war. These were the actual rooms — preserved like it was only yesterday — where Churchill had planned his war: strategised and plotted and judged intelligence reports and given orders.
Decisions made in these war rooms affected people in my own family — such as my grandfather, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his role in the war flying with the 514 Squadron RAF, and his brother, who never made it home. World War Two suddenly became a lot more real.
The rooms were in a labyrinth of thin, dimly lit corridors. Old maps with ships marked on them were stuck to the walls of the meeting rooms. Bunks were below. Senior officials — including Churchill — had proper bedrooms, featuring a desk and a small single bed.
The intensity of focus on the outcome was personified in the physical layout of the structure. And what struck me about it all was the sense of purpose.