Wounded veterans dive beneath Lundy Island coast to explore shipwreck

Diver surveying a possible gun casement on the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture: Wessex Archaeology

Diver surveying a possible gun casement on the wreck of HMS Montagu. Picture: Wessex Archaeology - Credit: Wessex Archaeology

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 t

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 Casey - Credit: Archant

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 Casey

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


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“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.

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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. Pictur

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

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 Archaelogy - Credit: 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.”

HMS Montagu and the rope walk for the salvage crew. HMS Montagu grounded on rocks surrounding the I

HMS Montagu and the rope walk for the salvage crew. HMS Montagu grounded on rocks surrounding the Isle of Lundy in thick fog in 1906. Picture: Ilfracombe Museum - Credit: Ilfracombe Museum

HMS Montagu and the rope walk for the salvage crew. HMS Montagu grounded on rocks surrounding the Is

HMS Montagu and the rope walk for the salvage crew. HMS Montagu grounded on rocks surrounding the Isle of Lundy in thick fog in 1906. Picture: Historic England - Credit: Historic England

Diver Graham Scott surveying the wreck of HMS Montagu which is covered in kelp. Picture: Wessex Arch

Diver Graham Scott surveying the wreck of HMS Montagu which is covered in kelp. Picture: Wessex Archaeology - Credit: Wessex Archaeology

Diver Graham Scott from Wessex Archaeology diving the wreck of HMS Montagu which is covered in kelp.

Diver Graham Scott from Wessex Archaeology diving the wreck of HMS Montagu which is covered in kelp. Picture: Wessex Archaeology - Credit: Wessex Archaeology

he Help for Heroes dive team with members of Wessex Archaeology and Historic England. The wounded ve

he Help for Heroes dive team with members of Wessex Archaeology and Historic England. The wounded veterans are diving the wreck of HMS Montagu off Lundy Island in a project funded by Historic England, Help for Heroes and Wessex Archaeology. Picture: Andy Casey Photography. - Credit: Archant

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