M33 (Minerva)

built 1915 by Workman Clark Ltd, Belfast

Ensign House flag


National Historic Fleet

Fighting Vessel



Museum: dry berth

Museum: dry berth





Web site




Engine Steam

Steam triple expansion




To be confirmed

30.98 feet (9.45 metres)

177.15 feet (54.03 metres)

4.10 feet (1.25 metres)



In 1914, the Royal Navy embarked on an expansive programme of warship construction, including a fleet of low freeboard, coastal bombardment vessels called monitors. M33 was one of a new class of particularly shallow draft monitors, designed in 1915 once it was found that the four secondary 6-inch guns on the new QUEEN ELIZABETH class of battleships were too close to the deep waterline to be worked effectively in a seaway. Two of these guns in each of the 5 ships in this class were re-sited, but the other two were removed completely and mounted on the new monitors, ordered from Harland and Wolff, Belfast, on 15 March 1915.

Both M32 and M33 were sub-contracted to the neighbouring yard of Workman Clarke and Co., Ltd., where they were laid down on 1 April 1915 and launched on 22 May 1915. Fitted with a pair of steam reciprocating engines capable of running at 9.6 knots, M33 commissioned at Belfast on 17 June 1915 and, after certain technical difficulties relating to her freeboard and trim, which were overcome by an extra four tons of permanent ballast aft, she was accepted from the builders, on 24 June.

With five officers and 67 hands, M33 under the command of Lieutenant Commander QB Preston Thomas RN, sailed for the Dardanelles, arriving at the end of July 1915. She gave support at the Suvla landings in August and continued to assist there for the remainder of the Gallipoli Campaign, until she was ordered to Salonika in January 1916 to support the Allied flank against the Bulgarians. Until almost the end of the war, M33 then operated with the several Detached Squadrons in the central Aegean, where her duties included bombardment of the Turkish coast, blockade, control of shipping and general patrol work, before returning briefly to Salonika.

M33 paid off at Mudros on 10 January 1919 with the reputation of being a “lucky” ship. Early in 1919, she went home to be adapted for service with the White Sea Squadron. She sailed for North Russia on 12 May 1919, arriving at Archangel in June under the command of Lieutenant Commander K Mitchell RN. She was immediately ordered to the River Dvina to help the British and other ground troops fighting in support of the counter-revolutionary forces in their war against the Bolsheviks. Her shallow draft and relatively heavy armament proved invaluable both then and in the subsequent Allied withdrawal in September 1919. On her return to England, M33 was laid up at the Nore until 1924 when she was converted for mine-laying duties at Pembroke. Re-commissioned on 3 February 1925 and renamed HMS MINERVA, she became a tender at HMS VERNON, the Portsmouth school of torpedo and anti-submarine warfare.

In 1939, she was converted to a boom defence workshop, designated C23(M), and towed to the Clyde. Returning to the Solent post-war, she remained a floating workshop and office, based at Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport, with her name changed once more to RMAS MINERVA. In 1987 she was disposed of and taken to Hartlepool for restoration. She was then acquired by Hampshire County Council in recognition of her outstanding combat history and as one of only two surviving naval vessels of World War One. In April 1997, bearing her old name M33, she was placed in No 1 Dock in HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, to facilitate the vital scientific conservation work on her still largely original shell plating. Much of this has now been accomplished with considerable progress made in returning most of her upper deck arrangements and superstructure to their external configuration and appearance circa 1915-1919; both six-inch guns have been re-instated and new timber masts from the conservation workshops at Merseyside Maritime Museum fitted.

In 2007, her hull, funnel and upperworks were re-painted in her First World War livery, and although not yet regularly open to the public, M33 occupies a prominent position adjacent to HMS VICTORY.

Source; Campbell McMurray, Advisory Committee, March 2009.


M33 is not a particularly significant artefact in terms of naval architecture or ship construction and her naval career after 1919 does not support her case for permanent preservation with any force. But her war-time service between 1915 and 1919 makes her eminently worthy of consideration. In her relative ordinariness, she is a suitable representative survivor of the smaller type of naval vessel generally employed for workaday purposes in war-time.

Designed as in effect a floating gun platform for a particular if limited wartime purpose, i.e. she could be risked close inshore off hostile coasts, she consistently provided valuable gunfire support to the armies ashore, and in other routine patrol and blockade duties she relieved more versatile ships like destroyers for deployment in more active roles. Lessons learned from the experience of the monitors in all theatres, drove many of the advances in long-range naval gunnery later applied to the battle fleet.

As one of now only two surviving warships of World War One, M33 not only enjoys a particular national significance in any case, but her distinguished record of combat in one of the most dramatic campaigns of the entire war, which shaped forever the destinies of the ANZAC peoples, gives her a much wider significance. This is particularly true if her distinguished record of service at Gallipoli is added her important role in 1919, both in providing naval gunfire support for European forces during the bloody and chaotic civil war in North Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution, and helping to evacuate them subsequently.

With all the associative meanings and the complex geo-political, imperialist and cross-cultural connotations suggested by both these key events in the age of catastrophe which ushered in our violent century, she has a legitimate claim to international significance. The career of this warship between 1915 and 1919, the significant period of her life and history, may be said to offer rich opportunities for both the interpretation of a distinctive aspect of the operational history of the Royal Navy in World War One and more widely for the education and greater public understanding of the economic, social and geo-political context within which the history and experience of citizens of the 20th century was in large part shaped. Being merely a steel-built, steam-driven hull of simple form and construction specially designed with a shallow draft as a floating gun platform for a specific war-time purpose, M33 does not embody any important technological innovation or other feature of distinctive nautical import.

Evidence does however exist to suggest that the smaller 6-inch gun monitors began in embryo as a rough sketch drawn almost literally on the back of an envelope by the then Director of Naval Construction, Sir Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt, during a meeting with Sir Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty and Admiral Sir Jacky Fisher, First Sea Lord, in March 1915. Furthermore, much of the basic design for the larger monitors had been carried out by Charles Lillicrap, who also seems to have taken over the design of the smaller vessels, and he too went on to become Director of Naval Construction (1944-1951), so her lineage is not without interest.

Previous names

  1. 1945 – RMAS MINERVA
  2. 1915 – 1924M33
  3. 1925 – 1939HMS Minerva
  4. 1939 – 1945C23(M)

Subsequent Developments

  1. March 2009 Vessel painted externally throughout in her World War One camouflage and livery during 2007. Source: Campbell McMurray, Advisory Committee, March 2009
  2. September 2013 Hampshire County Council’s Museums Service acquired her in 1990 to preserve her for the county and the nation and they are currently working in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy to complete her conservation and enable full public access in time for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign in 2015. £1.799m is currently being sought from the Heritage Lottery Fund to support this work with additional financial support coming from Hampshire County Council and fundraising by the National Museum of the Royal Navy. If the bid for Lottery funding is successful the vessel will become another highly popular public attraction at Portsmouth's Historic Dockyard. Source: Hantsweb.co.uk, Sep 13
  3. September 2013 The future of Hampshire’s HMS Monitor M33, one of the UK’s most significant surviving First World War warships, is more secure today, thanks to £1.79million of earmarked money from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). A final bid will be submitted to HLF early next year, which if successful will allow the physical restoration to begin. Currently owned by Hampshire County Council, the aim is to transfer ownership of HMS M33 to the NMRN by 2015. Source: HLF, Sep 13
  4. October 2014 M33 is now in the ownership of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. The museum has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.75m to help restore and conserve the vessel, with an aim to finally open her to the public. Source: The News, Portsmouth, 20 Oct 2014

Key dates

  1. 1924 Taken to Pembroke Dockyard for conversion to mine-laying duties
  2. 1939 Floating boom defence vessel, towed to River Clyde, re-named C23(M)
  3. 1945 Returned to Portsmouth, re-named RMAS MINERVA, a floating workshop
  4. 1990 Acquired by Hampshire County Council, the ship is returned to Portsmouth where she becomes M33 again
  5. February 1925 Re-commissioned, re-named HMS MINERVA, tender to HMS VERNON
  6. January 1919 Paid off, repaired and refitted
  7. July 1915 Commissioned and sailed for Aegean and the Gallipoli Campaign
  8. July 1987 Disposed of and transported to Hartlepool for restoration
  9. March 1915 Laid down in yard of Workman, Clarke & Co Ltd, Belfast
  10. May 1915 Launched
  11. May 1919 Joined White Sea Squadron and sailed for Dvina River, North Russia
  12. September 1919 Returned to England, paid off and laid up at the Nore


  1. unknown Heritage Microbiology and Science: Microbes, Monuments and Maritime
  2. 1991 Sea Breezes Credit where its due
  3. 1993 International Register of Historic Ships - Brouwer, Norman J
  4. 1996 The News (Portsmouth) New Milestones in Warship's Slow Journey
  5. 1997 The News Ship survives battles to be hit by weather
  6. 1998 The News (Portsmouth) Ship to be flooded for her own good
  7. 2000 Warship International The restoration of M33 - Bill Schleihauf
If you are the owner of the vessel and would like to provide more details or updated information please contact info@nationalhistoricships.org.uk

copper fastened:

a vessel whose plank fastenings are of copper rather than iron