Last British survivor of Gallipoli Campaign to be country's first boardable World War I ship

By Ben Miller | 22 October 2014

Last surviving World War I Gallipoli ship will open to the public at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard next year

A photo of a large ship
HMS M33 will open to the public at the National Museum of the Royal Navy© National Museum of the Royal Navy
A six-metre descent into the bottom of the dock of the sole remaining British veteran of the Gallipoli Campaign could be one of the highlights for visitors when the HMS M33 becomes the only First World War warship to allow the public aboard, organisers at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard have announced.

A photo of the inside of an ancient ship
Curators aim to tell the tale of the 72 men carried by the ship during the Gallipoli Campaign© National Museum of the Royal Navy
A “unique” view of the hull of the 568-ton ship, which carried two oversize 6” guns to a battle in modern-day Turkey almost a century ago, lies in wait as part of a £2.4 million restoration plan, backed by Hampshire County Council and a £1.75 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Curators are promising a “stunning immersive battle experience” telling the stories of the 72 officers and men the ship carried for more than three years.

Now berthed in No.1 Dock, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the M33’s shallow draft allowed her to move close to the enemy shore.

Curators describe her as a “basic metal box lacking in comforts”, although she was refitted and returned to action in the Russian Civil War of 1919, covering the withdrawal of Allied and White Russian troops from North Russia during the Dvina River Campaign before spending the rest of her active life in Portsmouth Harbour.

“Next year, HMS M33 will be the only British warship of the First World War that the public can get on board,” said Professor Dominic Tweddle, the Director-General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

A photo of a large ship
The M33 was a coastal bombardment vessel© National Museum of the Royal Navy
“She will be a permanent commemoration and a reminder that the First World War took place at sea just as much as on land.”

A special exhibition, Gallipoli: Myth and Memory, will open alongside the ship in March 2015.

“HMS M33 is a small ship but has a big history,” said Matthew Sheldon, the director of the conservation project.

“It will be wonderful to open the ship to visitors next 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.”

More than 100,000 military personnel died in the campaign between April 1915 and January 2016.

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