While First Lord of the Admiralty and Prime Minister during the Second World War, an integral part of Winston Churchill’s personal staff was Captain Richard Pim who supervised the statesman’s map room. The map room consisted of wall maps and charts that tracked the latest developments on the sea as well as land and air. A variety of colored pins plotted the location of Allied and enemy units as well as the movements of warships, merchant vessels, and convoys. There was even a dolphin symbol that was “pinned to the oceans when a gale was due.” Churchill visited the map room daily for updates on the latest developments in the war and haunted the room at moments of high drama, such as during the hunt for the Bismarck and through Operation Marketgarden in 1944. A traveling map room accompanied the prime minister on nearly all of his overseas trips and he regularly brought important visitors to the room for war briefings. The map room was Churchill’s “scoreboard of how the war was going.”
In the days after the start of the Second World War in September 1939, Captain Pim of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve was mobilized and personally ordered by Admiral Dudley Pound, the First Sea Lord, to establish and maintain Churchill’s map room. Apart from four days leave during the Dunkirk evacuation and a posting to serve in Operation Torch, Pim remained with Churchill for the duration of the war. Along with a small staff, he maintained the map room around the clock with the latest military developments. The story of the navy officer’s war service is recounted by John Potter in Pim and Churchill’s Map Room: Based on the Papers of Captain Richard Pim RNVR, Supervisor of Churchill’s War Room 1939-45. The author provides an outline of the officer’s early life before describing his service under Churchill that included accompanying the prime minister to most of his wartime conferences. Pim was one of the “familiar faces” that Churchill relied upon during the war. At the end of his premiership, the prime minister sat all day in the room in the Cabinet War Rooms that Pim had created to track the election results of July 1945. With the Labour victory apparent the prime minister ordered Pim to arrange a car to take him to Buckingham Palace to submit his resignation to the king. The book, which includes several colorful illustrations, is an interesting but slim volume that is recommended for all Churchill readers.