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Wounded Veterans Dive the Wreck of HMS Montagu

  • HMS Montagu grounded on rocks around the Isle of Lundy in the Bristol Channel in 1906 and could not be saved
  • Historic England is working with Help for Heroes, Operation Nightingale, controlled by the Ministry of Defence and Wessex Archaeology, to investigate the wreck for possible future protection
  • Wounded veterans dive the wreck of HMS Montagu as part of a unique programme of archaeological investigations to help their recovery

Wounded veterans have been carrying out a series of dives this week (2 July – 6 July 2018) 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.

Image of the battleship HMS Montagu which was grounded on rocks around the Isle of Lundy on 30 May 1906.
The battleship HMS Montagu grounded on rocks around the Isle of Lundy on 30 May 1906. © Historic England

HMS Montagu

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 have been 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 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

A diver at the wreck of HMS Montagu which is covered in kelp with a seal watching on
Diver Graham Scott from Wessex Archaeology diving the wreck of HMS Montagu which is covered in kelp © Wessex Archaeology

Operation Nightingale

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. There are six Help for Heroes veterans taking part in the dives and their injuries are both physical and psychological.

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.

The whole H4H dive team
The Help for Heroes dive team with members of Wessex Archaeology and Historic England. Credit Andy Casey Photography © Historic England

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.”

Jock Easton, Head of Recovery West for Help for Heroes said: “This is an exciting opportunity to further develop our recovery services. Diving allows the veterans we support to participate in an environment that enables those who are physically injured to feel weightless under water and those with mental health wounds to be able to forget their troubles for a while. Help for Heroes has used sport as a tool for recovery for many years and this project where sport is combined with archaeology is a great boost to their continuing journey.”

Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Manager Toby Gane said: “We are extremely proud and honoured to be working with Help for Heroes alongside Historic England on this project. As a registered educational charity with a strong social conscience, we work closely with local communities and as part of the investigation phase of this project, we will be accompanied by volunteers from  local diving clubs providing their expert knowledge of local waters.”

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