The Battle of the Atlantic began at the very beginning of the war in 1939 until the German surrender in May 1945. It has been called the longest naval battle in history and was a major part of the Naval history of World War II involving thousands of ships in millions of square miles of ocean. As most of the ships coming to the United Kingdom had to pass through this area it became increasingly dangerous due to the numbers of the German U-boats.
The United Kingdom, being an island, was highly dependant on tonnes food and other goods coming by merchant shipping for it’s survival and the U-boats and warships of the Kriegsmarine (Navy) were determined to stop these ships from reaching the British shores. Convoys coming over, mainly from America, were protected for the most part by the British and Canadian navies and air forces and from September 1941 with help from the United States ships and aircraft.
This battle came at a high price with a loss to the Allies of 3,500 merchant ships and 175 warships. The Germans lost 783 U-boats and 47 warships.
‘Western Approaches Command,’ were responsible for the safety of British shipping in the Western Approaches. Combined Operations headquarters was situated in Plymouth but following the fall of France in June 2940, the North Atlantic convoys were routed around the north of Ireland and it became, therefore easier to move operations to Liverpool. On the 7th February 1941, the headquarters was established at Derby House, Liverpool. Liverpool subsequently became an important strategic position in the Second World War.
The bunker was built below Derby House, known locally as the ‘Citadel’, was built with extensive reinforced concrete to the basement. It was bomb proof and gas proof, with a 7 foot thick concrete roof and 3 foot deep concrete walls, containing 100 rooms covering 55,000 square feet.
The Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines all worked together from the rooms within this bunker to protect the shipping which was being threatened by the German U-boats.
During World War II, Liverpool was Britain’s main convoy port and helped to maintain Britain’s relationship with the United States and Canada – a lifeline which was crucial for Britain’s survival and the ultimate Allied victory.
After the War it proved too costly and dangerous to demolish the command bunker at Derby House and it was closed up until being taken over by the non-profit organisation Big Heritage in 2017 who have opened up hidden and rooms of this once secret bunker and have made extensive renovations so that it could be opened up to the public. The museum, as it stands now, is only a small part of the original complex, maybe in time there will be more discoveries made.
The Western Approaches Museum draws in many visitors and proves very popular with schoolchildren as well as adults. It now ranks as one of the most popular historic sites in Liverpool.
Take a look at some of the interesting rooms within the Western Approaches Museum
Western Approaches HQ
1-3 Rumford Street
We are situated in the basement of Exchange Flags, just behind Liverpool Town Hall.
To book in advance please call 0151 227 2008
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