Churchill's old war office may be sold off for 35m

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Indy Politics

The building where Churchill once worked and where Lord Kitchener directed Great Britain's First World War campaign could soon be on the market for more than 35m.

The new owners of the Old War Office building would get 1,000 rooms spread across seven storeys for their money, as well as more than two miles of corridors and several secret tunnels.

They would also enjoy pano-ramic views of St James Park and Buckingham Palace and be able to wallow in decades of military history. But they would face a further hefty bill for modernising the warren of offices in the heart of Whitehall.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is under pressure from the Treasury to raise money by selling the 97-year-old neo-Baroque building, which currently houses the Defence Intelligence Staff.

The ornate offices were constructed from Portland stone between 1906 and 1910 at the then huge cost of 1.2m. It replaced the original War Office in Pall Mall that proved too small for the world's leading imperial power by the end of the 19th century.

Secretaries of State for War and senior staff officers were accommodated in the building for more than half a century, directing military campaigns all over the world. They included Winston Churchill, who was based there from 1919 to 1921. During the First World War, it housed Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, and David Lloyd George, the Munitions Minister.

T E Lawrence better known as Lawrence of Arabia also occupied an office in the building in 1914, drawing on his extensive travels in the Middle East to compile maps of the region.

The War Office had declined in importance by the 1930s but key figures in the planning of the Second World War, the Cold War and the disastrous Suez campaign were on site. One of the last occupants was John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War from 1960 until 1963 when he resigned over his affair with Christine Keeler. Although senior ministers and staff officers were switched across Whitehall to the new MoD headquarters in 1964, the ministry has continued using the prime-site offices.

It was refurbished during the 1980s and recently housed Geoff Hoon, the former Secretary of State for Defence, and his ministers while the main MoD building was overhauled.

The building is an unconventional trapezium shape because of the awkward plot of land it occupies between Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade. A network of tunnels connects it to other key Whitehall sites, including Downing Street and the MoD headquarters.

An internal MoD document has disclosed that the building is likely to be sold off. It estimates that an "open market sale" of the office could raise at least 35m.

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