Was office

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Building of the War Office in Whitehall , built in the 20th century beginning, still in use by the Ministry of Defense

The War Office ( German  War Office ) was a department ( Department ) or a ministry of the government of the Kingdom of England , the Kingdom of Great Britain and from 1801 the United Kingdom , which from the late 17th century for the administration of the English standing army or the British Army was in charge. It was in this form until 1964, when the Ministry of Defense ( Ministry of Defense ) took over its functions.


The founder of the War Office as an institution is generally considered to be William Blathwayt , who from 1684 as Secretary at War enforced an expansion of the powers of his office. A number of independent offices and commissions had previously existed, including since 1597 the Board of Ordnance . For questions of defense policy of the so-called was Military Council ( Council of War ), consisting of the monarch responsible and his top military advisers. There was a separate governing body, the Admiralty, for naval matters .

The official seat was initially in various locations in London , from 1722 in the Horse Guards building . In 1858 the company moved to Cumberland House on Pall Mall before moving into the War Office Building in Whitehall (now known as the Old War Office ) in 1906 .

The director was the so-called Secretary at War until 1854 , when the office was merged with that of the Secretary of State for War , a post in the cabinet rank that had arisen in 1794. The reason for this consolidation of offices was the Crimean War , which exposed numerous weaknesses in the British military organization. At the same time, the Secretary of State for War had to surrender his responsibility for the colonies , which were bundled in the Colonial Office under the Secretary of State for the Colonies .

For a long time, the tasks of the War Office were limited to purely administrative matters, whereas the military command lay with the Commander- in -Chief of the Army . This was in no way subordinate to the War Office until the Cardwell reforms at the end of the 19th century . The long-time Commander in Chief from 1856 to 1895, the 2nd Duke of Cambridge , successfully resisted his loss of influence. The lack of leadership in the British military was again revealed in the Second Boer War (1899–1902). As a result , the Committee of Imperial Defense was created in 1902 for strategic issues affecting the entire British Empire . In 1904 the Chief of the General Staff took the place of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and since 1908 Chief of the Imperial General Staff .

The importance of the War Office declined steadily after the First World War , which was also reflected in the decline in the number of employees. The newly created Royal Air Force had its own ministry, the Air Ministry , in 1918 . In 1936, a Minister for Co-ordination of Defense was appointed in the Baldwin government , an office similar to that which emerged at the time in other European countries (e.g. France). When Winston Churchill took office as Prime Minister , he also took over the post of Minister of Defense , although no separate ministry existed for this until 1947. In Churchill's War Cabinet who was Secretary of State for War not represented.

Another change came in 1947 with the establishment of the Ministry of Defense with its own minister. In 1964, the Defense (Transfer of Functions) Act transferred the tasks of War Office, Admiralty and Air Ministry to the Ministry of Defense and dissolved the previously existing individual ministries.

From 1906 the War Office was housed in a monumental building in the Whitehall district, which is still used by the Ministry of Defense to this day. In December 2014, the building was sold to the Indian consortium Hinduja Group for an undisclosed amount and is to be converted into a luxury hotel. The sale has been criticized on various occasions as a sell-off of public, especially historically significant property and cultural assets.


The files of the War Office are kept in the National Archives under the identifier WO .

The only soldier ever to head the War Office was Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum from August 1914 until his death in 1916 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Old War Office Building  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Churchill's Old War Office building sold off - BBC News report, December 13, 2014.
  2. ^ Anne Perkins: Selling the Old War Office is public theft, plain and simple . In: The Guardian (online edition), January 28, 2015.