9 Nov 2011

The Ministry of Defence - Admiralty / Somerset house, London

-Don't ask.
-Don't tell...
In Tomorrow Never Dies Bond has to kiss off his danish lesson at Oxford and drive down to the Ministry of Defence in central London. A British frigate has been sunk in the South China sea and Admiral Roebuck wants to send the British fleet to China rather than letting have M investigate the situation. Bond is rushed in and arrives on the road Strand.
To the left in the picture is S:t Mary le Strand church, briefly visible in the film. The present church was built at this location between 1714-1717 after the original church (further to the south) had been pulled down to make way for Somerset House in 1549. It is today the official church of the Women's Royal Naval Service. It has a book of remembrance for members who have died in service (possibly a clever reference to the fact that Bond is on his way to the Ministry and the Admiral).
The exterior and courtyard of the Ministry was filmed at Somerset House and the entrance where Bond drives in, is in fact the actual entrance from Strand. Bond is arriving from the north side and in the courtyard you can see M's Daimler parked, along with the police escort.
In 1964 the Admiralty was subsumed into the Ministry of Defence so it is not the Admiralty that Bond is driving to. That is the reason why Moneypenny says on the phone that they've "got a situation here at the Ministry of Defence". Later on though, at the end one of the sailors tells the Admiral onboard the HMS Bedford: "I have a message from the Admiralty", which in this case refers to the Ministry. Why the real Ministry of Defence building, covered in the For Your Eyes Only section, wasn't used is unknown.
Somerset House has a long and complex history that dates back to the 16th century and it would be impossible to do a sum up. For the entire history you can look here: http://www.somersethouse.org.uk/history

But the most interesting fact is that when the Admiralty moved in to new premises in Whitehall in 1725, it was decided that the Navy Board*, over whom the Admiralty had responsibility, should move to offices in Somerset House. By 1789 the final move was completed and, for nearly a century, more than a third of Somerset House was home to the various branches of the Navy Board. The old history and references to the navy is maybe one of the reasons that they chose to shoot the scenes of Bond arriving to the Ministry of Defence here.

*From 1546 to 1832 the civil administration of the Navy was controlled by the Navy Board. The board was abolished in 1832. Its functions were transferred to principal officers of the Navy and their activities placed under the supervision of the Admiralty Board.

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