Gallipoli veteran warship HMS M33 to be restored in time for centenary

One of Britain’s two surviving World War 1 warships is set to be restored to her original glory with the firm hope of nearly £2m of lottery funding. The cash injection would bring monitor HMS M33 – in a dry dock in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – to life and allow the public to tour her in 2015, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign she took part in.

The only surviving British ship from the Gallipoli campaign is to be brought back to life in time for the battle’s 100th anniversary thanks to the firm hope of nearly £2m of lottery funding.

Monitor HMS M33 once shelled Turkish positions in the Dardanelles during the ill-fated campaign to advance up the peninsula, seize Constantinople and knock the Ottoman Empire out of World War One.

For nearly 20 years, the gunship has been slowly undergoing restoration work in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard just a stone’s throw from Nelson’s Victory.

HMS M33 provides a fascinating insight into the role the Navy played in World War 1.

Carole Souter

The 100th anniversary of the campaign is one of two key events the Royal Navy intends to commemorate as part of the centenary of the Great War between 2014 and 2018 (the other being the clash of dreadnoughts at Jutland in May 1916).

M33 is one of only two Royal Navy warships left from World War 1; there are substantial plans to restore the other, Jutland veteran cruiser HMS Caroline, which is in Belfast.

Professor Dominic Tweddle of the National Museum of the Royal Navy said the monitor – basically a floating gun platform built with the sole aim of hammering targets ashore, "Was a precious part of our national naval heritage." He added: “We’re absolutely thrilled. We’ve long seen M33 as both culturally and historically important, and this symbolises the start of a new era for her.”

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said the M33 project was one of 119 connected with WW1 her organisation was funding.

“HMS M33 provides a fascinating insight into the role the Navy played in World War 1,” she added. “This project will enable visitors to go aboard the historic warship for the first time and explore the stories of those who fought on board – the fund is committed to helping people across the UK to learn about and tell the stories of the war.”

Ordered, built and commissioned in barely three months, M33 served in the later stages of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, including the landings at Suvla Bay, and spent the rest of the Great War in the Mediterranean.

At the war’s end she was dispatched to Russia as part of the campaign to support anti-Bolshevik forces.

She was later converted to a minelaying training vessel as HMS Minerva, served on the Clyde in World War 2 as a floating workshop for boom defences and finally became a floating office supporting the RN’s victualling yard in Gosport.

The Royal Navy decided it no longer required her in the 1980s and she was eventually bought by the county council in 1990, to begin the slow restoration process.

“We are absolutely delighted by this fantastic news,” said Cllr Keith Chapman, Hampshire’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and the Countryside.

“We have long known this warship is of national and international significance. Without Hampshire County Council’s initial intervention to acquire the ship – and now this support from the Heritage Lottery Fund – the M33 could have been lost forever.”