The Western Approaches Museum has displays showing the work of Western Approaches Command, which was the principal control centre during the Battle of the Atlantic.
During the Second World War, a secret war command centre was located in Liverpool that was responsible for combating German U-boats and protecting Atlantic convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic.
It is a large complex with around 100 rooms set over two levels and during wartime, the bunker was a workplace for over 300 people. Although not all the rooms are open to the public, there is a lot to see here and a visit will give you a great insight into a pivotal period of European history.
What to see at the Western Approaches Museum
The museum is set in the original Second World War command centre and a visit lets you see the complex much as it would have appeared in the 1940s. You are able to see the central operations room (also known as the map room), a cypher room and a NAAFI canteen.
It is a similar attraction to the Churchill War Rooms in London but without the long queue to get in. In contrast to the Churchill War Rooms, in many areas of this museum, you are able to go into the rooms and touch artefacts such as telephones and typewriters and there are even jackets and hats that you can dress up in.
One of the highlights of the museum is the original Gaumont Kalee Dragon projector that was used to show Winston Churchill secret war footage.
The museum also includes displays about the work of the Western Approaches Command and life in wartime Liverpool plus an exhibition detailing Canada’s involvement in the Second World War.
Towards the end of your visit, there is a recreated 1940s street scene where you can dress up in clothes from the wartime period.
Visiting the Western Approaches Museum
The Western Approaches Museum is in the heart of the city centre and both Moorfields and James Street stations are less than a five-minute walk away. It is also close to many other points of interest including the Cavern Club, the Magical Beatles Museum, the Museum of Liverpool, the British Music Experience and the Royal Liver Building, which are all under a 10-minute walk from the museum.
The museum is open every day between 10am and 4pm and the entry fee is £13.50, which is much less than what you would pay at the Churchill War Rooms. It is even better value considering that the on-site cafe sells the cheapest cup of tea in Liverpool, if not the entire country.
Due to the historic nature of the building (and the fact that care has been taken to keep everything looking exactly as it did during the war), the museum is not wheelchair accessible.
The NAAFI canteen is a departure from your standard museum cafe in that it is set up much as it would have looked during the war and tea and biscuits are even on sale at wartime prices (just 2p). The canteen also has a video playing that depicts the wartime experience in Liverpool and there are board games that you can play with.
Visitors to the museum usually spend around two hours here.