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A Brief History of Admiralty Arch

Updated: Sep 7

Admiralty Arch is significant both for its impressive architecture and as the gateway to the Mall, the road that leads up to Buckingham Palace. It was built, as the Latin inscription at its peak explains, as a memorial to the Queen: ‘In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910’.

The Arch was the administrative headquarters of the Royal Navy, the self-proclaimed greatest naval force in history, and source of the British Empire’s imperial might. Its graceful and stately design was intended to reflect Britain’s dominant position on the global stage

During the First World War, the oldest room within the Arch served as the headquarters for British code-breakers and interceptors. Under the supervision of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, these code-breakers deciphered the Zimmerman Telegram. This served, in turn, as the catalyst for the USA joining the Allies and bringing about victory.

Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, drew inspiration from his time working in Room 39, within Admiralty Arch. As Personal Assistant to the Director of the Naval Intelligence Division, Admiral John Godfrey, Fleming co-ordinated covert missions for the Allies all over the Empire. Endowed with the codename 17F, he rose through the ranks, and fashioned his famous hero after the adventurers and operatives he met within the walls of this very building.

Years later, the Arch served as the epicentre of secretive operations against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As fear overtook the popular imagination, the Admiralty strategised. The Citadel, an on-site bunker constructed for the event of a nuclear strike on London, was intended to be the heart of the post-nuclear counter-resistance in the UK.

Today, the sweeping arch is home to a hotel. It is still used during formal processions through the city, including royal weddings, coronations and state funerals.

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