An iconic building, known as the War Office, where British leaders made plans during the two world wars and the Cold War, is being put up for sale by the government. This is the same building in which the likes of Winston Churchill and David Lloyd-George once had offices. Ministers hope the Whitehall building, with its great historic value, will sell for more than £100m. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said civil servants would move to the main Ministry of Defence (MoD) building, and added that having defence staff under one roof would save £8m a year.
The War Office had its first brick laid in 1901 and, by the buildings completion, the Edwardian Baroque building had used 25 million bricks and many thousands of tonnes of Portland and York stone. The roof of the historic building has been host to grand sculptures symbolising Peace and War, as well as Truth and Justice – and Victory. In April 1910, as part of a parliamentary answer, the full cost of the “new” War Office was calculated as over £1.2m. There are many famous secretaries of state for war who worked there in its early years, including Lord Haldane, Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill, while Lawrence of Arabia was also employed there to create maps of the Sinai region based on his earlier travels to the area.
A former civil servant in his younger days posted to the War Office in 1940 remembered being told there had been friction between the armed forces and civil servants in the same building. The War Office had been hit by German bombs during the Second World War several times, killing one person, but the building remained relatively unscathed. The War Office was refurbished in the mid-1980s, and was duly reopened in 1992, as the new headquarters of the defence intelligence staffs. The civil servants currently stationed in the building will move across the road to the MoD’s main building next year, after which the historic building will be sold.
With over 1,000 rooms, 2.5 miles of corridors and a central London location, it will most likely attract interest from prominent property developers and big hotel chains, who are no strangers to buying government property that’s being sold off as the coalition attempts to cut costs. The MoD is also planning to sell the abandoned Brompton Road Tube station, which, during World War II, was used as a command bunker for anti-aircraft defences.