Wounded veterans are carried out a series of dives last week on the wreck of the battleship HMS Montagu to determine what remains of the wreck and to help protect this important site in the Bristol Channel. The project is funded by Historic England, Help for Heroes and Wessex Archaeology.
HMS Montagu was launched in March 1901. On 30 May 1906 the battleship grounded on rocks around the Isle of Lundy at Shutter Point in thick fog, due to a navigational error while undertaking secret radio communication trials. She could not be saved and had to be broken up and salvaged where she lay.
The dives were led by Wessex Archaeology in collaboration with Help for Heroes, a charity which helps British service personnel and veterans wounded in the line of duty, and their families. The underwater survey work will provide the archaeological and historical data that Historic England will use to decide whether this site should be recommended for protection by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The dives form part of Operation Nightingale, a ground-breaking military initiative, controlled by the Ministry of Defence to aid the recovery of wounded, injured and sick servicemen by getting them involved in archaeological investigations. Eight Help for Heroes veterans, with both physical and psychological injuries, took part in the dives.
Wessex Archaeology has collaborated with Operation Nightingale since 2011, providing professional support for participants on a range of archaeological sites. One of the most exciting of these sites was Barrow Clump, a Bronze Age burial mound and Anglo-Saxon cemetery within the Salisbury Plain Training Area.
Heritage Minister Michael Ellis said: “This project is a great initiative that will help wounded veterans, who have sacrificed so much, on their road to recovery. It is also an important step in understanding more about the wreck of the HMS Montagu and I wish all of those involved the very best of luck with the dives.”
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “We are delighted to be working with wounded veterans to record what remains of the wreck of HMS Montagu. These dives help to develop the personal strengths and capabilities of all those taking part and will provide Historic England with the vital information that we need to determine how best to protect the wreck.”