Western Approaches launches new WWII VIP Packard car guided tour of Liverpool - The Guide Liverpool

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Western Approaches launches new WWII VIP Packard car guided tour of Liverpool

24/03/2021

Liverpool’s Western Approaches museum is launching a brand-new guided tour of the city in a rare WWII VIP Packard car like those once used by MI6.

The three-hour tours in the luxury vehicle will begin once the museum re-opens on May 17.

Dean Paton, director of Big Heritage, which runs Western Approaches, says: “The car is a very exciting addition to what we can offer and to further highlight the important role Liverpool played during WWII. 

“Our car tours will include a visit to Western Approaches and we also hope to be able to visit schools in the area with the car and roll out our workshops.

“The car has been fully restored, and seeing it drive around Liverpool and stop at all the iconic sites will be a showstopper, and will make a great addition to how visitors can experience the city.”

It was on February 7, 1941, that ‘Combined Operations’ moved to Derby House at Exchange Flags in Liverpool because German aircraft and U-boats were attacking ships travelling in from the continent.

Western Approaches Command monitored the rectangular area of the Atlantic Ocean lying to the west of the British Isles (the Western Approaches), and it meant the city became an important and strategic one the Second World War, aiding the Allied victory.

Now marking its 80th anniversary, Western Approaches purchased the car – which once belonged to legendary Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford – earlier this year. It’s been carefully looked after and restored and is now in pristine condition.

Max Horton in London stepping out of Packard

The car, a right-hand drive Packard Six Saloon, is a rare survival from the war. It was built by iconic US Motor Company Packard – who a few years later switched to producing Merlin engines under licence from Rolls Royce to power the iconic Mustang fighter planes – in 1939.

This specific model was imported with a batch of other right-hand drive Packards that were used in war-time operations at the beginning of the war. A number were used as staff cars for military top brass including Admiral Sir Max Horton, Commander-in-Chief of Western Approaches, and General Montgomery, who loaded his Packard Six onto a train bound for the surrendered Italy in February 1944.

Some of these cars were adapted by MI6 to become mobile radio listening stations connected to Bletchley Park, which has an identical model on display but is not available for public hire.

Montgomerys Packard

A number of Packard enthusiasts in the US have highlighted that this vehicle retains its original high-end seating and has original factory-fitted flag-holders on the bumper, which would have held national flags if used by an Embassy, or a flag of a high-ranking Navy Officer such as Admiral Sir Max Horton.

Adds Dean: “Whilst we cannot guarantee Max sat in the back of this specific car, it is the closest anyone will get to experiencing how one of Britain’s greatest heroes would have been driven around his adopted home city of Liverpool.”

The guided tours will cost £450, including entry to Western Approaches.

There will be three routes available which will take in different journeys around Liverpool, each with stop-offs (in bold) to take in the views and get plenty of photos.

1. Liverpool Highlights Tour

This tour will start from Western Approaches and tour the Three Graces before going past the Beatles Statue, Albert Dock, and then onto the Baltic Triangle and Chinatown Gateway. It will then drive past Liverpool Cathedral, St Luke’s Bombed Out Church, the Metropolitan Cathedral, LFC Anfield, EFC Goodison Park, Everton Brow Viewpoint, St George’s Hall, William Brown Street, Mathew Street, Liverpool Town Hall and back to Western Approaches.

(Driving Time Approx. 1hr 20 mins)

 2. Liverpool & the Second World War

The second tour will go from Western approaches, past St Nicholas’ Church, The Royal Liver Building, along Canada Boulevard and to the waterfront statues and memorials. It will then drive to Liverpool Cathedral, St Luke’s Church, The World Museum Liverpool, Liverpool Town Hall and Martin’s Bank, before returning to Western Approaches.

(Driving Time approx. 1hr 10 mins)

3. Bespoke Tour

You decide. Western Approaches will provide a pick-n-mix list for customers to choose from, to create the route of their choice to fit into the three-hour guided tour (subject to conditions).

People can book by emailing [email protected]

Western Approaches

More fascinating facts about Western Approaches

* The iconic map wall (24 x 44 feet) was painted by local commercial artist and signwriter, John Wilson.

* The GPO provided the complicated communication systems. Telephone and teleprinter links were set up, allowing direct communication with the Admiralty and War Office in London, the western ports of Glasgow, Cardiff and Bristol and the Royal Naval bases at Greenock, Londonderry, Plymouth and Chatham. A direct link to Washington D.C. was later added once the USA entered the war in January 1942.

* Back up electrical power was provided by a generator that was the engine from a First World War German U-boat which had been dismantled in Birkenhead following the Armistice.

* Notable visitors included: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt (US First Lady), Noel Coward, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh (as a young naval Lieutenant)

* The Commander-in-Chief usually worked through to lunch then, at 2pm every day would go to play golf. He would return at 6pm, have dinner, a game of bridge and then work until 1am.

* More than 30,000,000 messages forms were handled during its four years.

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