Top Secret World War 2 HQ to
A former secret bunker; used to
mastermind the Battle of the Atlantic from the heart of Liverpool; is undergoing
a major transformation after heritage innovators and North West based social
enterprise Big Heritage secured the keys to the attraction. Big Heritage, based
in Chester, have recently signed terms with Shelborn Asset Management, owners of
Exchange Flags, to take over the attraction on a long term lease.
The company has been credited with a renaissance of heritage activity in
Chester, most recently organising the world's biggest digital heritage project
in partnership with Pokémon GO, which attracted over 16,000 people. Big Heritage
founder Dean Paton and his team of archaeologists, project managers and builders
have already set underway plans to accurately restore the forgotten City Centre
visitor experience back to its former glories.
Over the next 6 weeks, heritage innovators Big Heritage will be restoring a
labrynth of rooms within the underground bunker HQ and recreating an entire
underground 1940's street, complete with stocked sweet shop and pub, community
classroom facility, and a range of interactive exhibits and attractions. The
plan is to re-open Western Approaches to families in time for the October
½ Term. "Western Approaches HQ is 1 of the most
important buildings in the world associated with World War 2. Whilst it was
meant to be a secret during the war, sadly in recent decades it has become
almost anonymous once again. In the 1940's, when Winston Churchill and his top
admirals were planning how to tackle the threats in the Atlantic, the highest
level of secrecy was exactly what they would have wanted; in fact, the building
only officially existed in the 1960's, way after the war had ended! Now's the
time to change all that and to showcase this amazing attraction to the world.
And that is really, really exciting for all of us at Big Heritage and the team
and I are bringing our usual innovation and energy to making the very best of
this globally significant attraction. We can't wait to share it with the City
and thousands of visitors every year." said Dean Paton, Founder of Big
Heritage and project leader for the renovation.
Dust covered artefacts and archives are being discovered daily during the
renovation of the bomb proof and gas proof building, which has a 7 foot roof, 3
feet deep walls and hundreds of rooms covering more than 30,000 square feet.
In fact, some rooms haven't even been opened yet within the attraction.
"We're genuinely uncovering something new every day. We've found a number of
previously forgotten rooms, and have unearthed a few exciting finds along the
way. It's a treasure trove of World War 2 memories archived and stored for
decades. What's exciting is that much of this stuff hasn't even been seen before
by the public. But we also have lots of ideas to bring the attraction to life
for families, for Schools, for visitors, and for businesses based in the City.
We can't wait to share it with everyone." added Dean.
Western Approaches HQ, which was also known as the Citadel or the Fortress due
to its reinforced concrete protection; was staffed predominantly by WRNS
(Women's Royal Naval Service), known affectionately as "Wrens" and
WAAFS (members of the Women's Auxillary Air Force).
It was also home to commanders including Admiral Sir Max Horton, who oversaw the
Battle of the Atlantic campaign, Captain Johnny Walker, who sank more U-Boats
that any other Allied commander, and was regularly visited by war time Prime
Minister Winston Churchill. Prince Phillip was also believed to have undertaken
anti submarine training in the building during the war.