War Office

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The centre of British army administration from at least 1661 until the emergence of the Ministry of Defence in 1963, the War Office was designed to impose civilian control over military affairs. Before 1855, it was run by the curiously named secretary at war, but in the light of disasters in the Crimea, all administrative duties were consolidated under the secretary of state for war, a cabinet post. As the need for military advice to politicians grew, clashes between the secretary of state and military men became inevitable. In 1914 these clashes were dealt with by appointing Lord Kitchener, an experienced soldier, as secretary of state. During the Second World War Winston Churchill, as prime minister, assumed the role of ‘minister of defence’ and downgraded the influence of the War Office. Although the War Office was revived after 1945, any hopes of continued independence faded in light of a need for consolidated inter‐service policies and economy. The Ministry of Defence was the answer.

Subjects: British History.

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