The Info List - War Office

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The WAR OFFICE was a department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army
British Army
between the 1857 and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence .

Until 1855 a number of independent offices and individuals were responsible for various aspects of Army administration. The four most important were the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, the Secretary at War and the Secretary of State for War
Secretary of State for War
. Others who performed specialist functions were the controller of army accounts, the Army Medical Board , the Commissariat Department, the Board of General Officers , the Judge Advocate Generalof the Armed Forces , the Commissary General of Muster , the Paymaster Generaland the Home Office (before 1782 the twin secretaries of state).

The name "War Office" is also given to the former home of the department, the War Office
War Office
building located at the junction of Horse Guards Avenue and Whitehall
in central London. During August 2013 it was announced that the former War Office
War Office
building would be sold on the open market.


* 1 History * 2 War Office
War Office
building * 3 War Office
War Office
departments * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links


The War Office
War Office
developed from the Council of War
Council of War
, an _ad hoc_ grouping of the King and his senior military commanders which managed the Kingdom of England
Kingdom of England
's frequent wars and campaigns. It was equivalent to the Admiralty
, responsible for the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
, and the (much later) Air Ministry
Air Ministry
, which oversaw the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
. Its foundation has traditionally been ascribed to William Blathwayt, who on his appointment as Secretary at War
Secretary at War
during 1684 greatly expanded the remit of his office to cover general day-to-day administration of the Army.

The department had several London
homes until it settled at Horse Guards in Whitehall
during 1722, where it was to remain until 1858. The War Office
War Office
was then relocated to Cumberland House, Pall Mall for the last half of the 19th century before finally being relocated to a purpose-built accommodation in what is now known as the Old War Office Building.

The management of the War Office
War Office
was directed initially by the Secretary at War
Secretary at War
, whose role had originated during the reign of King Charles II of England
Charles II of England
as the secretary to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army
British Army
. The first War Office
War Office
Secretary at War
Secretary at War
is usually said to have been William Blathwayt, though he had two predecessors in the job. It was, however, a fairly minor government job which dealt with the minutiae of administration rather than grand strategy. Issues of strategic policy during wartime were managed by the Northern and Southern Departments (the predecessors of today's Foreign Office
Foreign Office
and Home Office
Home Office

From 1704 to 1855, the job of Secretary was possessed by a minister of the second rank, although he was occasionally part of the Cabinet. Many of his responsibilities were transferred to the Secretary of State for War after the creation of that more senior post during 1794 (though the latter was also responsible for Britain's colonies from 1801 and renamed Secretary of State for War
Secretary of State for War
and the Colonies , an arrangement which only ceased with the establishment of the Colonial Office during 1854). The job of Secretary at War
Secretary at War
was merged with that of the Secretary of State for War
Secretary of State for War
during 1855 (and was abolished altogether during 1863). The former War Office
War Office
building pictured from Whitehall

During 1855 the Board of Ordnance
Board of Ordnance
was abolished as a result of its perceived poor performance during the Crimean War
Crimean War
. This powerful independent body, dating from the 15th century, had been directed by the Master-General of the Ordnance, usually a very senior military officer who (unlike the Secretary at War) was often a member of the Cabinet. The disastrous campaigns of the Crimean War
Crimean War
resulted in the consolidation of all administrative duties during 1855 as subordinate to the Secretary of State for War, a Cabinet job. He was not, however, solely responsible for the Army; the Commander-in-Chief had a virtually equal degree of responsibility. This was reduced in theory by the reforms introduced by Edward Cardwell during 1870, which subordinated the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary for War. In practice, however, a huge amount of influence was retained by the exceedingly conservative Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge , who had the job between 1856 and 1895. His resistance to reform caused military efficiency to lag well behind that of Britain's rivals, a problem which became obvious during the Second Boer War.

The situation was only remedied during 1904 when the job of Commander-in-Chief was abolished and replaced with that of the Chief of the General Staff which was replaced by the job of Chief of the Imperial General Staffduring 1908. An Army Council was created with a format similar to that of the Board of Admiralty
, directed by the Secretary of State for War, and an Imperial General Staffwas established to coordinate Army administration.

The management of the War Office
War Office
was hampered by persistent disputes between the civilian and military parts of the organisation. The government of H. H. Asquith
H. H. Asquith
attempted to resolve this during the First World War by appointing Lord Kitchener as Secretary for War, making him the first and only soldier to have the job. However, this was thought unsatisfactory; during his tenure, the Imperial General Staff was virtually dismantled. Its role was replaced effectively by the Committee of Imperial Defence, established during 1902 to discuss wider defence issues.

The War Office
War Office
decreased greatly in importance after the First World War, a fact illustrated by the drastic reductions of its staff numbers during the inter-war period. On 1 April 1920, it employed 7,434 civilian staff; this had decreased to 3,872 by 1 April 1930. Its responsibilities and funding were also reduced. During 1936, the government of Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
appointed a Minister for Co-ordination of Defence, who was not part of the War Office. When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister during 1940, he bypassed the War Office altogether and appointed himself Minister of Defence (though there was, curiously, no _ministry_ of defence until 1947).

Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
continued this arrangement when he came to power during 1945 but appointed a separate Minister of Defence for the first time during 1947. During 1964, the present form of the Ministry of Defence was established, unifying the War Office, Admiralty, and Air Ministry.

The records of the War Office
War Office
are kept by The National Archives with the code WO.


View of the former War Office
War Office
building looking south along Whitehall.

Between 1906 and its abolition during 1964, the War Office
War Office
was based in a large neo-Baroque building, completed during 1906, located on Horse Guards Avenue
Horse Guards Avenue
at its junction with Whitehall
in central London. It contains about 1,000 rooms across seven floors, linked by 2½ miles of corridors. The construction of the War Office
War Office
building required five years to complete at what was then a huge cost of more than £1.2 million.

The building is somewhat oddly shaped, forming a trapezium shape in order to maximise the usage of the irregularly shaped plot of land on which it was built. Its four distinctive domes were designed as a decorative means of disguising the building's shape.

After 1964 the building continued to be used by the Ministry of Defence by the name OLD WAR OFFICE. During August 2013 it was announced that the building would be sold on the open market with the goal of realising offers in excess of £100 million.

On 13 December 2014 the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the War Office building would be sold to the Hinduja Group
Hinduja Group
for an undisclosed amount. The building was sold on 1 March 2016 for more than £350 million, on a 250-year lease, to the Hinduja Group
Hinduja Group
and OHL Developments for conversion to a luxury hotel and residential apartments.


* Office of the Secretary of State

* Military Secretary\'s Department (1870–1964)

* Department of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for War

* Directorate-General of Lands (?–1923) * Directorate of Lands (1923– ) * Directorate-General of the Territorial and Volunteer Forces (?–1921) * Directorate-General of the Territorial Army (1921– )

* Central Department (Department of the Secretary)

* Department of the Chaplain-General * Department of the Judge Advocate-General * Publicity Section/Information Section

* Department of the Financial and Parliamentary Secretary (Finance Department)

* Directorate of Army Contracts (1924– )

* Imperial General Staff

* Directorate of Military Intelligence (?–1922) * Directorate of Military Operations (?–1922) * Directorate of Military Operations and Intelligence (1922– ) * Directorate of Military Training (1922– ) * Directorate of Army Staff Duties

* Department of the Adjutant-General

* Directorate-General of Graves Registration and Enquiries (?–1921) * Directorate-General of Army Medical Services * Directorate of Mobilisation * Directorate of Organisation * Directorate of Army Personal Services * Directorate of Prisoners of War (?–1921) * Directorate of Recruiting and Organisation

* Department of the Quartermaster-General

* Directorate of Equipment and Ordnance Stores (?–1927) * Directorate of Movements * Directorate of Quartering * Directorate of Remounts * Directorate of Supplies and Transport * Department of the Controller of Surplus Stores and Salvage * Department of the Surveyor-General of Supply (?–1921) * Directorate-General of Army Veterinary Services * D