The abomination of desolation

September 30 2014

An Englishman of the generation that has lived through the General War of 1914-18 may remind himself […] of an incident which struck him, at the time, as painfully symbolic. As the War, in its ever-increasing intensity, made wider and wider demands upon the lives of the belligerent nations – like some great river that has burst its bounds in flood and is engulfing field after field and sweeping away village after village – a moment came in England when the offices of the Board of Education [1899-1944] in Whitehall were commandeered for the use of a new department of the War Office [1684-1964] which had been improvised in order to make an intensive study of trench warfare. The ejected Board of Education found asylum in the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it survived on sufferance as though it had been some curious relic of a vanished past. And thus, for several years before the Armistice of the 11th November, 1918, an education for slaughter was being promoted, in the heart of our Western World, within the walls of a public building which had been erected in order to assist in promoting an education for life. As the writer of this Study was walking down Whitehall one day in the spring of that year 1918, he found himself repeating a passage from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew:

“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) … then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the World to this time … And, except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved …” [Footnote: Matt. xxiv. 15 and 21-2.]

No reader can fail to understand that when the Ministry of Education of a great Western country is given over to the study of the art of war, the improvement in our Western military technique which is purchased at such a price is synonymous with the destruction of our Western Civilization.

The War Office building was completed in 1906. In 1964, the Admiralty, War Office, Air Ministry, Ministry of Aviation (not the same) and the earlier MOD were merged into the Ministry of Defence, which retained it, though not as its main headquarters. In 2013 it was decided to sell it on the open market. So first war expelled education (presumably from another building: which?), and now business is taking over from war.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

One Response to “The abomination of desolation”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    I suppose this will be the first intrusion of the private sector into a major building in Whitehall. The northern end, near Trafalgar Square, has always been commercial, in a rather low-rent way.


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