The keel for M.33 was laid on 1st April 1915 and she was launched on 22nd May
The Gallipoli Campaign, which began in February 1915, aimed to break through the Turkish defences in the Dardanelles Strait, capture Constantinople and destroy Turkey as a fighting force. M33 sailed to the Dardanelles in July 1915, in time to help cover the landing of reinforcements along the southern coast of the Gallipoli Peninsula during August.
In January 1916, M.33 was ordered to Salonika to support the Allied flank against the Bulgarians, acting as guard ship or boom defence vessel at the Allied base.
In May 1916, whilst under enemy fire, she assisted in salvaging guns from the damaged M.30 beached on Long Island in the Gulf of Smyrna and covered the evacuation of the wireless telegraph station and aerodrome on Long Island.
M.33 operated with several Detached Squadrons in the central Aegean until almost the end of WW1. Her duties included bombardment of the Turkish coast, blockade, control of shipping and general patrol work.
In July 1918 M.33 was deployed to the Allied base at Mudros, on the Greek island of Limnos in the Aegean. During November 1918 she was one of the vessels supervising the armistice with Bulgaria at Stavros, and with Turkey at Syra.
Early in 1919, M.33 returned to England with the reputation of being a ‘lucky’ ship. She was quickly adapted for service with the White Sea Squadron. She was commissioned at Chatham on 10th May and sailed for North Russia with a ship’s company of 5 officers and 72 men, arriving at Archangel in June. She was at once ordered to the River Dvina to help ground troops fighting in support of the counter-revolutionary forces against the Bolsheviks. She received a number of direct hits from enemy guns, but survived without serious damage or casualties to her crew.
On her return to England, M.33 was laid up until May 1924 when she was converted for mine-laying duties at Pembroke Dockyard. Re-commissioned on 3rd 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 remained at Portsmouth as a floating staff office, reportedly for Wrens. In 1943 her boilers and engines were removed and she was converted to a boom defence workshop and towed to the Clyde. Returning to the Solent after WW2, she remained a floating workshop and office, based at Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport.
She was put up for sale in 1984 and purchased by the Hartlepool Ship Preservation Trust and in 1987 transported by barge to Hartlepool, where only her funnel was restored.
In 1990 Hampshire County Council, in recognition of her outstanding combat history and as one of only two surviving naval vessels of WW1, acquired the ship and prepared her for towing back to Portsmouth.
A process of restoration began – she was painted above the waterline and the forward 6-inch gun re-instated. In 1995 restoration was taken over by the Hampshire County Council Museums Service. A scheme was devised with the intention of returning the ship to her external 1915 – 1919 configuration.
In April 1997, with new masts in place and bearing her old name HMS M.33, she was dry docked in No. 1 Dry Dock, close to Vice Admiral Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory. Corrosion was quickly stabilised and by 1998 the hull was once again watertight, although the vessel would remain in No. 1 Dry Dock.
In 2000 further treatment involved an electrolytic technique to remove chlorides from between the riveted joints; she was at the time the largest artefact to receive this treatment.
In 2007 M.33 was painted in the ‘dazzle’ anti-submarine camouflage she wore at the end of 1918.
She was opened to the public on August 7 2015.