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HMS M.33's Connections to Anzac Day By Volunteer Andy

On 25 April our military colleagues in Australia and New Zealand commemorate Anzac Day. We are reminded of the role of HMS M.33 in supporting Anzac and British troops during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915.

The small, shallow-draft Monitors could get closer to the shore to blast Turkish positions than the traditional warships, offering some respite to the hemmed-in soldiers. Here is what the ship’s company looked like at that time.

For Anzac Day 2021 we're sharing an account of HMS M.33 and just a few of its connections to Anzac Day from Andy August, one of our Front of House Volunteers.

An Introduction from Volunteer Andy

My name is Andy August and I am a Visitor Experience Volunteer on HMS M.33 at the NMRN in Portsmouth. I first encountered HMS M.33 during the late 1970s, when it was marked C23. She was laying alongside the fuel oil jetty at Clarence Yard. I would go on board to catch a Fleet tender across to King’s stairs, but at that time I was unaware of the ship’s identity or history.

Having read an article in the Portsmouth News regarding HMS M.33, in which they were asking for volunteers, I thought I would really like to be a part of that and signed up.

My Father saw action at Gallipoli, so I was interested in this connection, as HMS M.33 is the last surviving ship that served at that campaign. He served in HMS M19 with the Royal Marine Light Infantry as a Naval gun layer being part of the gun crew for her 9.2 inch MKV1 gun. On the 4 December 1915, while bombing Turkish trenches, the gun exploded killing one man and injuring several others and setting fire to the ship. If only I had listened more and asked more questions!

Onboard HMS M.33

I find meeting and talking with visitors about the history of M33 really fascinating, and love listening to their stories. Some have family members or personal experiences from the Great War to Vietnam and beyond.

Part of HMS M.33’s original armament were Vickers MK1 303 inch water-cooled medium machine guns which operated on the maxim principal, which was common to most protagonist machine guns of the Great War. The use of similar guns is featured in the film shown to visitors on board the ship, which shows their importance in the Turkish defence, inflicting many casualties during the landings.

HMS M.33's Connections to the Australian Forces

HMS M.33 has a pair of Vickers guns which we have set up for visitors to view. It was while removing the guns from their storage chests that I found packing notes from the Australian Military Force, Damascus Barrack, Meeandan, Queensland (near Brisbane), dated 1948 and 1952. I decided to look a bit deeper in to their provenance and later discovered that Vickers guns were manufactured at the Australian Small Arms factory Lithgow.

I then discovered the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum, which is independent from the current factory site (which is now run by Thales). I emailed them the serial numbers from the HMS M.33 guns, asking if they had any information, and received a reply from their custodian, Donna. Donna confirmed that both serial numbers fit with Lithgow-made Vickers guns, along with other marks used by feeder factories Bathurst, Orange, Cowra and Parkes.

There is such a strong link between HMS M.33 and the Australian forces. The ship’s participation in the Gallipoli campaign was in support of the troops ashore, many of them from the Australian Imperial Forces. It seemed very fitting to discover this extra link between the ship and the far side of the world.

Anzac Day Memorial Services

With fellow volunteers Brian and Richard, I arranged a Remembrance service on board HMS M.33 for Anzac Day 2019. A Naval Base Padre conducted the service and there was a Lieutenant Commander from the Royal Australian Navy in attendance. He later commented that it was the best Anzac Day service he had attended!

We then started to arrange a Remembrance service for 2020 with the help of the Volunteer Co-ordinator at NMRN, and a Naval Base Padre. Invitations were sent out to the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish Embassies as well as local politicians. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, last year and this year we were unable to hold the service, but we are hopeful of a service going ahead for Anzac Day 2022.

Thank You Andy

As an organisation The National Museum of the Royal Navy is extremely lucky to have some brilliant volunteers like Andy that help us in many different ways at our museums. Often they have great stories, insights and connections to the ships, aircraft and artefacts on display, and it's a honour to be able to share these stories with you. 

Stay tuned for more insights from the museum teams, conservation teams and volunteers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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