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It was three years ago when Big Heritage broke the locks on forgotten rooms and uncovered a trove of WWII memorabilia, Big Heritage were on a mission to transform this former secret underground HQ, used to mastermind the Battle of the Atlantic, into an immersive and interactive attraction that would benefit not only history lovers but also those with military interests, school groups, families and tourists alike, and they done just that!
Watch above as Kate Reilly James and our cameras go down into the depths of Western Approaches ahead of its make over and find out about the launch event planned for October.
We spoke to Big Heritage founder, Dean Paton to find out how the project originally came about and what you can expect when you visit.
There are lots of social distancing measures in place and a new one way system will ensure distancing is adhered to when you visit. Get more info here.
Western Approaches welcomed many a famous face during the Battle of the Atlantic. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Prince Phillip both visited the wartime bunker and Admiral Sir Max Horton and Captain Johnny Walker, who sank more U-Boats that any other Allied commander called the Western Approaches home during the war.
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).
Dust-covered artefacts and archives are being discovered daily during the renovation of the bomb-proof and gas proof building, which has a seven-foot roof, three feet deep walls and hundreds of rooms covering more than 30,000 square feet. The team have found a number of previously forgotten rooms, and unearthed a few exciting finds along the way. It’s a treasure trove of World War II memories archived and stored for decades. What’s exciting is that much of this stuff hasn’t even been seen before by the public!
Gone are the days of look but don’t touch! At Western Approaches visitors will be encouraged to get hands on with original artefacts, have a go at role play in the real life wartime street and enjoy the ‘Anti Museum’ approach to learning. Fancy a go at being a 40’s telephonist? Can you decipher Morse Code? Want to plot the route of the fleet, deep in the Atlantic? You’re going to love the immersive experience of Western Approaches.
The renovations are well under way at Western Approaches and Dan and the Big Heritage team plan to unveil phase one of the brand new museum during October Half Term. With more rooms to explore and countless artefacts still to uncover, the full revamp is expected to be finished by mid 2018. Will you be one of the first to see this phenomenal Second World War bunker in all its glory.
To find out more about Western Approaches and the launch event later this October, head to www.westernapproaches.org.uk
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