Wounded veterans have been diving beneath the coast of Lundy Island to uncover the secrets of a shipwreck that has spent more than a century underwater.

Help for Heroes divers Dan Phillips, Michael Tresidder, Andrew Phillips and Sacha Bamford on board the boat to Lundy Island where they will be diving the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture: Andy CaseyHelp for Heroes divers Dan Phillips, Michael Tresidder, Andrew Phillips and Sacha Bamford on board the boat to Lundy Island where they will be diving the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture: Andy Casey

Eight Help for Heroes veterans have been exploring the wreck of HMS Montagu this week, working with charities and local diving groups to investigate its history and archaeology.

The findings of the dive will help determine if the government will recommend the site for protection.

It is the latest feature of the nation-wide Operation Nightingale, which aims to ensure a fulfilling recovery of veterans wounded, sick or injured in the line of duty.

Jock Easton, head of recovery west for Help for Heroes, said: “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.

Andy Phillips, Dan Phillips, Michael Tresidder and Sacha Bamford. Picture: Andy CaseyAndy Phillips, Dan Phillips, Michael Tresidder and Sacha Bamford. Picture: Andy Casey

“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.”

Launched in 1901 on a secret radio communication mission, the ship was salvaged five years later on the rocks of Shutter Point on the island after a navigational error in heavy fog.

The loss of the ship was a political blow for Britain at the time, with the Royal Navy pursuing an intensifying arms race with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany.

Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Manager Toby Gane said: “We are extremely proud and honoured to be working with Help for Heroes and its beneficiaries alongside Historic England on this project.

Two divers surveying what they believe is part of a gun casement on the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture: Wessex ArchaeologyTwo divers surveying what they believe is part of a gun casement on the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture: Wessex Archaeology

“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.”

Organised by the Military of Defence, the operation has spanned several years and sees the veterans, both mentally and physically injured, explore some of the county’s most mysterious archaeological sites.

It has previously seen veterans uncover the history of Barrow Clump, a Bronze Age burial site and Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Salisbury.

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.

Diver surrounded by kelp looking into a possible shell hoist used to transfer shells to the gun turrets on the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture:Wessex ArchaelogyDiver surrounded by kelp looking into a possible shell hoist used to transfer shells to the gun turrets on the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture:Wessex Archaelogy

“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.”