At first, British vessels — civilian as well as military — proved extremely vulnerable to German U-boats. The Western Approaches — a notional sea area extending from Shetland and Scilly to well beyond Ireland — had a command centre set up in the basement of Derby House in Liverpool.
It boasted a seven-foot reinforced roof, sleeping quarters and a large and theatrical map room. Staff, mainly women, worked mathematical miracles to plot the course of U-boats and minimise the horrific loss of life that a single torpedo could perpetrate. Today, the premises have been opened up — with the shrewd principle that it should appear the occupants have just stepped away from their posts for a cup of tea. Deep below the Blitzed streets of Liverpool, a high-pressure, high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse was in play for years.
Elsewhere in Liverpool during the war, the Queensway Tunnel was in use by the military — as sepia photographs of planes emerging from the cross-Mersey thoroughfare confirm. You learn this on the splendid Merseytravel tunnel tour. Visitors are led from the design aspirations to the 21st-century reality, stepping out through a door to witness the unstoppable tides of vehicles threading through the Queensway Tunnel, a masterpiece connecting the city with Birkenhead, across on the Wirral. Back at the Cavern Club, I chose not to stay on for the top of the bill act at 1am.
All the way from Guatemala, ladies and gentlemen: The Teafeatles. Time for bed. Liverpool even does subterranean accommodation, as I can testify when I was given a basement room at 30 James Street, the former home of the White Star line. What with some overthought cushioning on the doors, it felt like I imagine a padded cell to be. But the heavenly rooftop bar makes up for it. Tomorrow: is it possible to cycle from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in a single day You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.
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