The Old War Office - History and Facts | History Hit

The Old War Office

Whitehall, London, England

Tristan Parker

20 Sep 2021
Image Credit: Smuconlaw/Wikimedia Commons

About The Old War Office

A Grade II-Listed building in the Whitehall area of London, England, The Old War Office acted as an official building for the UK Government before being converted into upmarket residences.

History of The Old War Office

The Old War Office building (OWO) in its current form was completed and opened in 1906, after the previous war office became too small for increasing numbers of staff during the mid-to-late 19th century. The new venue then became the main base for British military operations until 1964, when much of the work was transferred to the nearby headquarters of the newly formed Ministry of Defence.

Various prime ministers and senior British political figures have been based in the building, including Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Herbert Asquith and Lord Kitchener (Secretary of State for War during the first two years of World War One and known for the military recruitment poster featuring his face above the slogan ‘Your country needs you’).

The office was also the workplace of Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, who worked as a British Naval Intelligence Officer. It’s thought that Fleming came up with the idea for Bond during his time at the office.

In a fitting tribute to Bond’s creator, the OWO building has been featured in a grand total of five James Bond films – more than any other venue – as the headquarters of MI6, Bond’s employer. In chronological order, these appearances of the OWO are: Octopussy (1983), A View to a Kill (1985), Licence to Kill (1989), Skyfall (2002) and Spectre (2015).

In the first three of these films, scenes are set inside the building (although not all of those scenes were filmed in the building itself), while in Skyfall only the striking domed corner towers are visible, as Bond stands on a nearby roof, surveying a fantastic London panorama. In Spectre, the viewer sees just a brief glimpse of the building’s exterior, as Bond drives away at the end of the film, signalling his apparent departure from MI6.

Aside from globetrotting spy films, the OWO has also been featured in Netflix drama series ‘The Crown’.

The Old War Office today

In 2016 the Ministry of Defence sold the OWO building to the Hinduja Group. The building has been converted into high-end living quarters and is scheduled to open as OWO Residences by Raffles in 2022.

Getting to The Old War Office

The building is located in Whitehall, London, England, near high-profile government buildings in current use, including 10 Downing Street (the home of the Prime Minister) and the Cabinet Office. It is also near many famous London sights, including Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, as well as Charing Cross Rail station and numerous tube stations and bus stops. Note that the building is not open to the public.

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