HMS Victory : Wiki Commons
The official launch of the Defence Archaeology Group has taken place on HMS Victory, in the presence of Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Sir Charles Montgomery. Time Team’s Phil Harding, who is the group’s Honorary President, and Professor Simon James, representing the University of Leicester were among those attending.
The Defence Archaeology Group was formed following the enormous success of Operation Nightingale. The project gives wounded service personnel the opportunity to learn a series of excavation, land survey, drawing and mapping techniques at several archaeological sites on Defence land. The Defence Archaeology Group will support projects such as Operation Nightingale and support the Defence Infrastructure Organisation in its mission to protect, and appropriately utilise, heritage.
The group has already run projects on Salisbury Plain and the Caerwent Training Area near Chepstow. The sites include Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon material. As a result of their participation several service personnel have gone on to study degree level archaeology at the University of Leicester.
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Corporal Steve Winterton of 1st Battalion The Rifles has started an archaeology degree at the University of Leicester. He commented:
“I have worked on all of the Operation Nightingale excavations since the beginning of the project last year and have really enjoyed it. I have excavated on prehistoric, Roman, 20th century and now Anglo-Saxon sites, all of which have offered really different experiences.
“I am building up my skills through the work on these projects and am now able to put together project designs for major excavations – I have also gained a lot of fieldwork experience and have found two of the burials at Barrow Clump myself.
“Another benefit of the project for me is that I have enrolled to do a degree in archaeology at Leicester University. Operation Nightingale has really helped me.”
Operation Nightingale recently received a special award from the British Archaeological Awards in recognition of its innovative use of archaeological work to boost the recovery and career prospects of military personnel injured in Afghanistan.
Sergeant Walshe Royal Army Medical Corps, who is a qualified archaeologist and a key member of the Defence Archaeology Group, said:
“These soldiers have all endured a lot during operational tours. Due to the complex nature of the injuries that are being experienced in Afghanistan the Army is looking at new and innovative ways to promote recovery. The British Archaeological Award means as much to the soldiers participating in the project as it does to those of us leading the work.
“We have already seen that archaeology enhances their rehabilitation process. It also gives soldiers a very different view of Salisbury Plain along with the heritage associated with it. We are investing time and resources in these soldiers in the firm belief that fieldwork and recording will aid their recovery.”
Surgeon Commodore Peter Buxton OBE QHP FRCR, who is the Defence Archaeology Group’s senior officer, commands the Defence Medical Group which includes Royal Centre of Defence Medicine and Headley Court where injured service personnel are treated. In addition to his medical qualifications he undertook an MA in Archaeology by Distance Learning with the University of Leicester.
“Archaeology provides an outstanding training and educational opportunity and the Defence Archaeology Group will provide a focus and support for Service personnel, particularly those who have been wounded, who are interested in archaeology. The practical and academic skills they learn, whatever they chose to do in the future this will stand them in very good stead”