During the Second World War, this luxury London establishment had a secret identity – not only was it a popular, centrally located hotel, but St Ermin’s Hotel was also a base for secret British spies. Baroque Travel has all the details
Luxurious and historic, the magnificent St Ermin’s Hotel in London was the hub of British secret intelligence from the 1930s onwards. In fact, throughout the Second World War, guests at this luxurious London hotel had no idea that they were sleeping beneath a floor full of explosives. The hotel was originally a series of private residences built in 1889. Then, in 1899, these sumptuous mansions were connected and transformed into the elegant hotel that exists to this day.
Interestingly enough, St Ermin’s was strategically positioned to become the center of British intelligence. Not only was it close to the Houses of Parliament, it was also located amongst a large selection of wartime intelligence offices. When the British government was looking for a home for its wartime operations, it chose St Ermin’s Hotel as the meeting place for British spies, a place they could visit to discuss wartime operations and intelligence information. The hotel became the place where job interviews took place, new agents were trained and information was passed from one person to another.
In 1938, the British Secret Intelligence Service Section D moved into the hotel and took over its top floors. Unbeknownst to fellow guests, the men and women eating and drinking at the hotel were actually spies plotting against Germany during the Second World War. These people kept a stock of explosives in the hotel itself, above the rooms where the guests were staying.
As the base of Operations for British Intelligence, St Ermin’s Hotel became the center of covert activities from the Second World War onwards. Word has it that there is a secret tunnel underneath the hotel that was used by the spies to gain access without being seen.
Today, guests staying at St Ermin’s can enjoy a covert spy experience in the form of a tour of the hotel’s more historic areas. Guests are able to see some of the hotel’s historic treasures, including a silk scarf printed with radio codes, an original hotel rug from the spy era, the Division Bell, which connected the Houses of Parliament and alerted members of Parliament to any vote being cast. Interestingly enough, the Division Bell is still connected to this day! Children enjoy a spy game when they stay here; they are given a top-secret spy packet when they check in, with ‘ultra-secret code red’ clearance, and enjoy an historic tour of the hotel that includes a trivia game.
Those guests staying on the top two floors of the hotel, which used to be occupied by MI6 (Military Intelligence) are informed of the story of the members of British Intelligence who used those rooms as their base. There were even double agents, such as Guy Burgess and Kim Philby, who worked for British Intelligence but were in fact Russian spies.
Of course, this elegant hotel is no longer a home for spies. Nestling at the end of a tree-lined courtyard in the heart of London’s Westminster, this deluxe establishment offers guests a relaxing environment and an old-world experience. It’s the perfect base from which to explore many of London’s historic attractions, and is an ideal destination for either business or pleasure.