Western Approaches Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Western Approaches Museum

Liverpool, England, United Kingdom

Take command of the British Navy with a visit to the Western Approaches Bunker and submerse yourself in the history of the decisive Battle of the Atlantic.

Amy Irvine

10 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Rept0n1x / CC

About Western Approaches Museum

The Western Approaches Museum in Liverpool sits within a World War Two bunker complex which served as the combined services command centre during the Battle of the Atlantic – the Allied fight against the German U-boat offensive in the Atlantic ocean.

The museum allows you to step back in time and undertake a unique experience, where you don’t just see the history but can actually venture inside to experience it first-hand.

History of the Western Approaches Museum

German aircraft and U-boats were attacking ships travelling in from the continent. On 7 February 1941, Combined Operations moved to Derby House at Exchange Flags. Known as Western Approaches Command, the department was named after the passage of ocean that it defended – the rectangular area of the Atlantic Ocean lying immediately west of the British Isles.

A bunker was built below Derby House, with extensive reinforced concrete protection given to the basement. It was bomb proof and gas proof, with a 7ft thick concrete roof and 3ft deep concrete walls, containing 100 rooms covering 55,000 square feet.

Liverpool was an important strategic position in the Second World War as Britain’s main convoy port, and the bunker played a key role in protecting the thousands of ships that made port in the Mersey during the height of the war. The tactical operations team worked hard to monitor convoy routes and vital shipping lines, and develop anti-submarine defensive strategies in the Operations Room. Churchill himself was later to say that the Battle of the Atlantic was the “dominating factor all through the war”.

The Operations Room has remained exactly how as it was left when its doors were closed on 15 August 1945.

Western Approaches Museum today

The bunker has undergone a complete restoration and visitors can visit the underground telecommunications and mapping rooms and explore the bunker as a whole. Displays and information help people gain an insight into the development of the battle and the challenges involved in keeping the sea lanes open.

A tour is available that covers the Central Operations room, cypher room, a 1940s street scene, NAAFI canteen and community classroom facility. The original Gaumont Kalee Dragon projector which Winston Churchill used to watch secret war footage is also on display.

The bunker is also a memorial site, where visitors can pay their respects to those who lost their lives fighting for what the Prime Minister saw as the greatest challenge of the war.

Getting to the Western Approaches Museum

The museum is located in the basement of Exchange Flags, behind the Town Hall and St Martin’s Bank. It is opposite the NCP car park on Rumford Street, and a short walk from two main underground train stations, Moorfields and James Street. Liverpool Lime Street station is approximately 15 minutes walk away. The museum is also well serviced by local bus routes.

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