Visiting - Explore
The bunker is in no way a small, confined space. It was once the workplace for more than 300 people who often slept here during shifts, which means there are sleeping quarters, offices and secret rooms to explore – some rooms have yet to be opened to the public as this site is very definitely a work in progress when it comes to discovering new areas and making them accessible.
The vast bunker will take you approx. 1 hour 15 mins to explore, maybe more depending on what you find to see and do along the way, and at the end of the tour you will be pleased to find hot drinks and biscuits at war time prices.
Here is a brief list of some of the rooms you will find on your tour:
Into the bunker
Walking down the staircase into the bunker you will pass by a sentry guard’s desk and walk along a corridor into the first room.
The ‘Road to War’
The first room you will enter is known as the Road to War Room. This area highlights events following the First World War, leading to the Second World War. It also provides background on the move of Western Approaches HQ from Plymouth to Liverpool. You can wander around the displays in this room and look for extra hands-on information in cabinets, pigeon holes and stands. The room contains artefacts from the inter-war period and maps and copies of blueprints of the Western Approaches site. There are two interactive aspects aside from the interpretation: visitors are invited to make kites out of Reichsmark bank notes and play the role of an architect sitting and drawing at an architects’ desk.
The RAF Plotting Room
This is a small room dressed to show radio equipment, maps and co-ordinates. There are quiet sound effects in this room.
The Power Corridor
The power corridor connects the Road to War room to the RAF Plotting Room. This area of the building is slightly narrow, although there is plenty of room for two people to walk side by side and stop to read the information on display. However, for larger groups it is more difficult to move around this section at the same time. On the wall there is a power board and an information panel.
This is a small room with a memorial to all those who died in the Battle of the Atlantic. The lighting in this room is low.
The Main Operations Room
This is the biggest room at the site. Visitors can walk around and sit down at desks which have paperwork and documents, which can be handled, opened, and read to learn about the personnel who worked in this building. Visitors are encouraged to touch touched phones, typewriters and try on military jackets and hats to take photographs. There are quiet sounds effects.
The RAF and Royal Navy Cabins are also situated in the Operations Room. There three steps up to each cabin. They contain working typewriters which can be used by visitors. Exiting the rear of the Naval cabin, you will go up a staircase leading onto the next floor. To the right is a guard sentry point, a desk with a key cabinet featuring an original pin up girl poster still on the inside.
The bunk rooms are dressed as officers’ bedrooms.
This room is laid out to replicate Admiral Sir Max Horton’s office with books, cigars and golf balls.
There is a speaking tube connected to the cabin below, so you may hear sounds from downstairs.
The next section of the building is a connecting corridor. There is a slight ramp. There is currently an exhibition telling the story of Superintendent Wren Agnes ‘Nan’ Currie who was in charge of all of the WRNS based at Western Approaches.
In the same corridor area is a Second World War film projector which is believed to have been used by Winston Churchill in order to watch war footage. It was donated to the museum many years ago and not originally sited here.
Johnnie Walker room
In this room you take a seat on the benches to watch several video clips featuring Captain Frederick Johnnie Walker, know as the ‘uboat killer’. Around the room you can find information the work of the Western Approaches Tactical Unit (WATU) which took place upstairs in the offices of Derby House. Here officers took part in anti submarine warfare training.
Between the Johnnie Walker room and the next area there is a door which is generally for staff only, but also a fore exit leading to the ramp room just next to reception. If required visitors can access toilets from here, without going back throughout the rest of the building.
There is a staircase down to the next area. The Radio Room contains a video explaining how Morse Code works. Visitors can have a go at de-ciphering messages and write their own to post in our box.
Off the corridor from here visitors can look in the Switchboard Room and see the small Cypher Room where top secret information was passed to Bletchley Park. Follow the pink chevrons to the final desk and sentry point before walking through to the street scene.
The street scene is a recreation of a 1940’s street based on original shops of the time. Visitors can go into the shops, pick up war time recipes to take home and look through the windows at photographs of Blitzed Liverpool. There are quiet sound effects in this room coming from the pub. There is a also a hopscotch and a dressing up area where you can take a selfie to post on social media. There is information on food rationing, clothes and the black market. Visitors are welcome to use this space to play, read or just wander around.
Visitors are invited to take a seat, watch our Merseyside at War video, narrated by Sir Trevor McDonald, and help themselves to tea, coffee and biscuits at World War Two prices (2p) or any donation amount. (Please note that due to the changing nature of our biscuits we cannot always be confident about what allergens may be present in them). There are books to read and traditional children’s games for visitors to use. Please enjoy this space for as long as you like. To exit the room, walk back through the street scene and out of the door and follow the signs to guide you up a short staircase back to reception and exit.
Please note that the Naafi space can also be occasionally used as an Education Room for school visits and therefore sometimes may not be available, however refreshments will always be moved into what is currently known as the Canada Room, just on the way out.
This is the last room you will go into on your tour of the building. This room has displays dedicated to the involvement of Canada in the Second World War. The staircase in this room leads you back to reception.