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Council Leader steps aboard historic WWI warship

Wednesday, 04 September 2013

The Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry has stepped aboard to experience first hand, one of only two surviving World War I warships in the country, located in Hampshire.

During his visit to the HMS Monitor M33 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Councillor Perry saw for himself the extent of work needed to bring the warship back to life. Steps are underway to safeguard the future of the warship so that she is in a fit state to play a central role in the First World War centenary commemorations. Allowing visitors to climb aboard her for the first time so that they can enjoy an improved experience of the vessel will also be crucial for her internationally significant history to be told in 2015 - the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign.

Currently berthed near the new Mary Rose Museum and Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, the warship was acquired by Hampshire County Council's Museums Service in 1990 in order to preserve her heritage for future generations across the county, and the nation. The Council recently joined forces with the National Museum of the Royal Navy to bid for Heritage Lottery funding towards the extensive work required to preserve this important historical artefact. Next month, both organisations will learn whether their bid for funding has been successful and this will then herald the start of a programme of renovations, and culminate in arrangements being developed by the National Museum of the Royal Navy to take over ownership of the M33 by 2015.

Councillor Perry said: "The historic M33 coastal bombardment vessel is of considerable national importance, having been launched in 1915 and features in the National Register of Historic Ships. She is one of only two WWI warships left in this country and without work to restore her, she could disappear from history altogether. If our lottery funding bid is successful, the M33 will play an important role in Hampshire's First World War commemorations and will join the ranks of the nation's most significant historic warships, here at the Historic Dockyard, for years to come."

During the tour, Councillor Perry and Professor Dominic Tweddle of the National Museum of the Royal Navy were shown the hull of the warship, which will undergo extensive renovation to accommodate visitors on board in the future if the Lottery bid for funding is successful.

Professor Tweddle said: "We are delighted to be working with Hampshire County Council to protect the M33 which is a rare piece of our modern 20th Century history. She serves as a lasting reminder of the sacrifice by the brave ships' crews who served at Gallipoli, and the tens of thousands of troops, British, French and ANZACs who stormed the beaches on the Peninsula in what is now modern Turkey, during the Campaign. Prominent among them of course were the men of the Hampshire Regiment."

Also joining them on their tour were sisters, Frances Patten of Southampton and Edna MacDonald of West End. Their father, Percy Ford also served in the Royal Navy during the Gallipoli Campaign, on board the battleship HMS Queen. Commenting, Mrs Patten said: "My father signed up the day after his 16th birthday and enjoyed his time in the Navy, and it's been very interesting to see the type of warship he would have served on during the Gallipoli Campaign all those years ago. I think the work planned for the M33 is a very good thing as young people need to know about this, and I'm sure there will be visitors who may have had grandfathers who fought during the First World War and at Gallipoli, who will also feel it's important this ship is looked after for the future."

Councillor Perry added: "For many Hampshire residents such as Mrs Patten and Mrs MacDonald, who have naval ancestry, or family members who served during the First World War, this rare vessel not only represents a piece of their history, but a piece of our country's proud naval heritage which is important to preserve for future generations. Only by protecting this heritage can we ensure that we never forget the tremendous courage and sacrifices of those who served, and gave their lives at that time."

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Council Leader steps aboard historic WWI warship

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