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Gallipoli 'lucky ship' goes on show

Published 12/07/2015

HMS M.33, the only surviving ship from the Gallipoli Campaign in the First World War
HMS M.33, the only surviving ship from the Gallipoli Campaign in the First World War

The Royal Navy's only surviving ship from the Gallipoli campaign is to be opened to the public next month following a £1.79 million refurbishment to mark the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated battle.

Nicknamed the "lucky ship" because it sustained no casualties, the HMS M.33 is to become the only First World War warship to allow visitors to walk her decks when it opens as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, alongside HMS Victory and the Mary Rose Museum.

More than 100,000 people lost their lives during the failed Gallipoli campaign by Britain and France to secure the peninsula in the Ottoman empire (modern day Turkey) to secure a sea route to their ally, Russia.

A spokeswoman for the NMRN said: "HMS M.33 is the only surviving navy ship from the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, and as such, holds great historic importance.

"This is despite the fact she was constructed and sent into service so speedily that she did not even warrant a name.

"Fabricated in just seven weeks she was one of nearly 40 'monitors' built in a rapid construction campaign following the outbreak of First World War.

"Although the Gallipoli campaign claimed 100,000 lives of personnel from all round the world, M.33 was considered a lucky ship and, despite being showered by shell splinters, she suffered no casualties."

Whilst in service, HMS M.33, which has a 568-tonne metal hull holding two powerful 6in guns, housed 67 men and five officers for more than three years who were deprived of home comforts.

The spokeswoman said: "With a top speed of just nine knots and a shallow draft, HMS M.33 was not built for comfort or speed but to allow her to get close-in to shore and fire at targets on land."

Following the renovation funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), visitors will access the ship by descending to the bottom of the six-metre deep dry dock, which dates back to 1801, before stepping aboard.

The spokeswoman added: "The platform at the base of the dock will allow an unseen and dramatic viewpoint of HMS M.33's bow, flat bottom and the dry dock itself."

S ir Peter Luff, chairman of HLF, said: "The role played at Gallipoli by the Royal Navy and Monitor Class ships like M.33 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, M.33 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."

The NMRN commissioned Ian Clark Restoration to conserve the fabric of the ship and the team have worked to conserve the original steelwork in order to expose original features. Later layers of paint were painstakingly stripped back by hand, exposing the authentic and cracked paint surface below.

The spokeswoman said: "This mammoth task has taken over 3,600 hours of work on the project and more than 275 litres of protective wax.

"The treatment is tailored to each area of the ship in order to retain as much of the historic surfaces as possible, whilst also carefully removing ineffectual, modern surface treatments."

Matthew Sheldon, project director 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 interior of the ship will include an immersive battle experience with the aim of evoking life aboard the vessel and the engine room will house a digital projection of the Gallipoli campaign.

The opening launch of HMS M.33 will be on August 6 and will involve local schoolchildren and Sea Scouts who will make sculptures to represent the fleet that served at Gallipoli.

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