The journey will begin later this month towards preserving one of only two British First World War warships to survive the war and ravages of time, when Hampshire County Council considers the necessary steps to secure the future of the HMS Monitor (also known as Minerva) M33.
The historic M33 coastal bombardment vessel is of huge national importance, having been launched in 1915 and features in the National Register of Historic Ships. She served in the Dardanelles Campaign between 1915 and 1918, including providing 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. Following her return from Russia, she spent the rest of her active life in Portsmouth Harbour.
The vessel was acquired by the County Council's museums service in 1990 in order to preserve her heritage for the county and the nation, and she is currently berthed near the new Mary Rose Museum and Nelson's flagship HMS Victory in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. While she can be viewed from the dockside, it is not possible for the vessel to be boarded by visitors and the County Council is now working in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy to provide public access to the vessel at the Historic Dockyard and tell its internationally significant history in 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.
Hampshire County Council Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Keith Chapman will be asked at his Decision Day (31 July 2013) to approve the next steps towards safeguarding the warship's future which will also provide visitors with greater access to climb aboard and enjoy an improved experience of the vessel.
To support the preservation work needed to bring the M33 back to life, the County Council has set aside £250,000 associated with the sale of the former Treadgolds buildings in Portsmouth, a property that is surplus to its needs. Separately, £1.799million is being sought from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it is also being proposed that the National Museum of the Royal Navy's fundraising team target wider funding to source the remaining £200,000, which would be underwritten by the County Council. The partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy is also developing arrangements that would see them take over ownership of the M33 by 2015.
Councillor Chapman said: "HMS Monitor M33 is a rare piece of national World War I heritage which without the foresight of the County Council could have been lost forever. Most significantly, she served at Gallipoli in 1915 -16 supporting troop landings and evacuations during that military Campaign in which British and Commonwealth troops served. If the bid for Lottery funding is successful, then the vessel will become another highly popular public attraction at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard. The national significance of the M33, combined with the proximity of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign and the 1914 -18 Great War, gives us the opportunity to work in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy towards preserving this hugely important piece of the nation's history here in Hampshire."
Professor Dominic Tweddle, from the National Museum of the Royal Navy, said "M33 is one of the rare jewels of World War I that serve to remind us of the sacrifice made at Gallipoli, particularly by the ANZACs. We are delighted to be involved with Hampshire County Council in working to save her."