New Defence Archaeology Group launched aboard HMS Victory

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Time Team‘s Phil Harding and senior naval staff met today (28 September) aboard  HMS Victory  to announce the launch of a new tri-service Defence Archaeology Group.

The initiative  is an extension of Operation Nightingale, a pioneering rehabilitation project set up by Sgt Diarmaid Walshe of the Royal Army Medical Corps, and Richard Osgood of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, to help  soldiers recovering from wounds suffered in Afghanistan through archaeological investigations at sites on MoD land. This new project will involve members of the Army, Navy, and Airforce.

Surgeon Commodore Peter Buxton is the Defence Archaeology Group’s senior officer, and Wessex Archaeology’s Phil Harding has been named as its Honorary President.

Speaking at the launch, held in  HMS Victory‘s Great Cabin, Phil said: ‘I would like to thank everyone – it is an honour to be part of this. I have been involved with the project from its embryonic days, from when I saw soldiers wallowing around in badgers setts at Chisenbury midden [see CA 265 for more on Operation Nightingale’s first dig], to today.

‘I have been an archaeologist all my life, I love archaeology, and I have never wanted to do anything else. And now I can see that what is a passion for me can also give great benefits to others – it is very humbling, and a great privilege to be part of this.’

He added: ‘Military personnel make seriously good archaeologists. I have watched some of them on site, and the quality of their work – with a little bit of guidance from professionals – is very good. The soldiers involved in Operation Nightingale should be very proud of what they have done.’

The Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Sir Charles Montgomery, was also present to oversee the launch.

He said: ‘While all three services continue to improve  with how we rehabilitate servicemen and women, archaeology has opened up a whole range of new  ways to do this. We hope to involve more sailors and airmen in this project so that it can benefit all three services.’

To find out more about the Defence Archaeology Group, visit

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