First World War warship HMS Monitor M33 to open to public for first time

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Members of the public will soon be able to step aboard one of the UK’s most significant surviving First World War warships, HMS Monitor M33.

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The ship, built in 1915 as a coastal bombardment vessel, will be restored and arranged to look as it would have done when it was in service.

Tourists will, by 2015, be able to visit the warship and learn about those on board. Sailors’ family members will be contacted in the hope of including personalised stories, and visitors will be able to see where those on board ate, slept and worked.

HMS Monitor M33 served in the Dardanelles Campaign between 1915 and 1918, and provided support for the Gallipoli Campaign during 1915.

In 1919 she was refitted and returned to action in the Russian Civil War, where she covered the withdrawal of allied and White Russian troops from North Russia during the Dvina River Campaign.

She spent the rest of her active life in Portsmouth Harbour, following her return from Russia.

The ship is currently berthed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard alongside the new Mary Rose Museum and Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.

She is the only remaining First World War small-gun monitor, and one of only two significant ships of that era.

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HMS Monitor M33 was in 1990 acquired by Hampshire County Council’s Museums Service. Earlier this year, the council joined forces with the National Museum of the Royal Navy to bid for Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) support towards the work required to preserve the warship.

The council has secured the first part of the funds – £1.79m earmarked from the HLF. A final bid will be submitted to HLF early next year.

HMS Monitor M33 will be brought back to life in time to be a part of the centenary commemorations of the Gallipoli Campaign in 2015.

Andrew Lambert, professor of naval history at King’s College London, told historyextra: “News that almost £2m has been provided by the Lottery and private donors to restore the small Monitor M33 serves as a timely reminder that for all the might and majesty of the great Dreadnoughts of the era, it was altogether humbler craft, built in haste, and armed with second hand guns that translated British sea power into effect on the coasts of Belgium, at Gallipoli and in 1919 in Northern Russia.

“Monitors were built to carry heavy guns into coastal waters, where they could be used to support the army. M33’s larger sisters mounted 15 inch guns, like those on display outside the Imperial War Museum .

“This is a ship with history – she also worked as a minelayer in the Second World War – and deserves her place at the heart of the national collection of historic ships as a fitting reminder of the mighty navy during the First World War.

“She nicely complements the other veterans warships of the conflict, HMS Caroline, a light cruiser that fought at Jutland, and HMS Saxifrage, and anti-submarine sloop from the U-boat war.

“These ships will help tell the story of the war, and of the great service that did so much to win it.”

Carole Souter, chief executive of HLF, said: “HMS Monitor M33 provides a fascinating insight into the role the navy played in the First World War.

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“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.”