HMS M.33 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Photo: National Museum of the Royal Navy)

Gallipoli Centenary - last surviving British warship opens in Portsmouth August 6

Posted on on 17 July 2015
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A restored British warship from the Gallipoli campaign will be officially opened on August 6th 2015, the centenary of the last major Allied offensive on the peninsula.

HMS M.33 has been conserved in a £2.5 million restoration project for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) at Portsmouth's historic dockyard. 

The gunboat is the only surviving naval ship from the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign and as such holds great historic importance, says the NMRN.

With a shallow draft and a top speed of nine knots, M.33 was designed for inshore attacks on land targets. Visitors will have a view of the 'Monitor' class vessel's flat bottom from a platform at the base of her dry dock.

She's been restored as part of the NMRN's Great War at Sea 1914-1918  Centenary programme.

The project, carried out in partnership with Hampshire County Council, was awarded a £1.8 million grant from the UK's National Lottery.

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said:  “The role played at Gallipoli by the Royal Navy and Monitor Class ships like M33 in protecting soldiers in the August 1915 landings is an incredible story of perseverance, endeavour and bravery. It has a personal meaning for me as my father and his two brothers served in Gallipoli. 

"So I'm particularly grateful that, thanks to National Lottery players, M33 is now open in the campaign’s centenary year and people can experience first-hand the conditions in which the men aboard lived and fought.”

'Immersive experience'

M.33 was one of almost 40 'Monitors' ordered as part of a rapid construction programme after the outbreak of the First World War.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy commissioned specialist conservators, Ian Clark Restoration, to preserve as much of the ship's original steel and paintwork as possible. 

"Later layers of paint have been painstakingly stripped back by hand, exposing the authentic and cracked paint surface below, This mammoth task has taken over 3,600 hours of work and more than 275 litres of protective wax," the NMRN explains.

Visitors are promised an "immersive battle experience, powerfully evoking life aboard the vessel."

M.33's engine room will house a digital projection of the Gallipoli Campaign screened directly onto the restored hull.

Project Director Matthew Sheldon said: "HMS M.33 is a small ship but has a big history. It will be wonderful to open the ship to visitors this year on her centenary.  

"Finally we’ll be able to share the story of her part in the Gallipoli Campaign, and reveal what it was like for the 72 crew who were crammed on board."

The opening of HMS M.33 August 6th will be accompanied by a  free community event featuring drama and local arts organisations. See Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for details. Ticket sales to visit M.33 start from August 7th.

You can read about the Gallipoli August offensive on the Centenary News Anniversaries page.

Information & images supplied by the National Museum of the Royal Navy

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News