From Afghanistan to Archaeology

Posted by pt91 at Aug 14, 2012 12:30 PM |
British soldiers injured in Afghanistan take degrees at University of Leicester
From Afghanistan to Archaeology

Rifleman Rowan Kendrick of 1st Battalion, the Rifles, with the Anglo-Saxon burial he excavated while participating in OPERATION NIGHTINGALE's dig at Barrow Clump, Wilts. Photo credit: Simon James

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 14 August 2012

Photographs from an archaeological dig available from pt91@le.ac.uk

British soldiers injured in Afghanistan have a unique opportunity to study archaeology degrees at the University of Leicester.

The University’s School of Archaeology & Ancient History is offering a special fee scheme to facilitate their studies.

The cost of distance-learning courses for injured soldiers will remain fixed at last year’s rate – despite the general tripling of tuition fees for university courses in September.

This School initiative in support of wounded UK service personnel, which will initially last for three years, is strongly backed by the University.

A number of injured soldiers have already signed up to take distance-learning courses in the School, and more are expected to enrol for October.

These military recruits to the University developed a taste for studying the human past through their participation in Operation Nightingale, an award-winning project which uses archaeology to help soldiers injured during Britain’s war in Afghanistan.

Operation Nightingale, which has just won a prestigious British Archaeology Award, was the brainchild of Diarmaid Walshe, a qualified archaeologist and former infantryman. He came up with the idea while serving as medical sergeant with 1st Battalion, the Rifles.

His vision was to get soldiers who had suffered physical and psychological injuries on operations involved in archaeological excavation as a form of occupational activity, to help them in their recovery.

Strongly supported by the British Army, Operation Nightingale was developed in collaboration with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) which has responsibility for archaeological remains on Ministry of Defence sites, with the University of Leicester recently joining as academic partner.

Skeleton and tankard
Discovery unearthed at Barrow Clump. This individual was buried with a bronze-bound wooden 'tankard', on top of which may be seen the iron tip of a spear laid in the grave alongside him. Photo credit: Simon James

The School has been closely involved with Operation Nightingale’s excavations of a Roman building at Caerwent in South Wales, and in July its students also joined the soldiers in investigating Bronze Age and Anglo-Saxon burials at Barrow Clump, Wiltshire, in collaboration with Wessex Archaeology and Channel 4’s Time Team.

Operation Nightingale’s success in helping injured personnel find new motivation is evident on site. The School of Archaeology & Ancient History is delighted to be able to offer these soldiers a special route to pursue archaeology further, through distance learning degrees which will also aid their career development once they leave the Army.

As part of their degrees, they will be able to take part in further digs and will have access to online resources including lessons and academic texts.

Barrow clump
Rifleman Rowan Kendrick (right) of 1st Battalion, the Rifles, explains a sixth-century Anglo-Saxon burial he has just excavated to his colleague and fellow-student Corporal Steve Winterton, archaeology lecturer Deirdre O'Sullivan, and DL Administrator Kathy Ashley (left). Photo credit: Simon James

Leicester-born Corporal Steve Winterton has signed up to the study programme after working on Operation Nightingale since the project’s first season at the East Chisenbury Midden in Wiltshire last year.

Cpl Winterton, who has spent 15 years with the army, said: “This is something I never thought I would do. My army background has been a great asset in the field and the experience of ‘doing’ archaeology has made me realise that I can go ahead with degree-level study.

“The distance learning programme means that I can continue with Operation Nightingale at the same time, combining study and practice straight away in fieldwork projects. I’m doing my first assignment on the use of non-invasive survey techniques in archaeology because I can easily relate theory and action in this area.”

Rifleman Rowan Kendrick, who is originally from Leeds and is currently based in Germany, will shortly leave the army and take up the degree full-time.

He said: “Operation Nightingale has helped me to focus on the future, and the distance learning study programme should give me an opportunity to further my education and a future career.”

Surgeon Commodore Peter Buxton OBE, commander of the Defence Medical Group and himself a graduate of Leicester's MA in Archaeology by Distance Learning, said: “The very generous support of the University of Leicester in setting up the Reduced Fees Scheme provides an outstanding educational opportunity for those service personnel participating in Operation Nightingale to complement the practical skills they are learning in the field with an academic qualification. Whatever they chose to do in the future this will stand them in very good stead”

Deirdre O’Sullivan, Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology, who has helped organise the scheme, said: “We have good experience and a strong reputation in distance learning, and believe that we can do something really useful here. We are also very impressed with the Ministry of Defence's own long term commitment to the wellbeing of injured military personnel, and believe we are privileged to be a part of an innovative, creative and intelligent way of addressing the challenges involved.”

Ends

Notes:

For more information, please contact Deirdre O’Sullivan, of the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History at dmo@le.ac.uk or on 0116 252 2607.

Alternatively, contact Professor Simon James, at stj3@le.ac.uk or on 0116 252 2535.

Photo full captions:

5849: Rifleman Rowan Kendrick of 1st Battalion, the Rifles, newly-enrolled University of Leicester Distance Learning archaeology student, with the Anglo-Saxon burial he excavated while participating in OPERATION NIGHTINGALE's dig at Barrow Clump, Wilts. The cemetery is being dug to save its evidence for life in Britain around the sixth century AD, which is being destroyed by badgers (who created the tunnel seen here by the body). This individual was buried with a bronze-bound wooden 'tankard', on top of which may be seen the iron tip of a spear laid in the grave alongside him. The 'tankard' is a rare and remarkably well-preserved find, which Rfn Kendrick excavated with great skill and patience. This stunning discovery is a happy start to Rowan Kendrick's burgeoning engagement with archaeology! Photo credit: Simon James.

5822: The Anglo-Saxon burial excavated by newly-enrolled University of Leicester Distance Learning archaeology student Rifleman Rowan Kendrick of 1st Battalion, the Rifles, while participating in OPERATION NIGHTINGALE's dig at Barrow Clump, Wilts. This individual was buried with a bronze-bound wooden 'tankard', on top of which may be seen the iron tip of a spear laid in the grave alongside him. The 'tankard' is a rare and remarkably well-preserved find, which Rfn Kendrick excavated with great skill and patience. This stunning discovery is a happy start to Rowan Kendrick's burgeoning engagement with archaeology! Photo credit: Simon James.

5990: Newly-enrolled University of Leicester Distance Learning archaeology student Rifleman Rowan Kendrick (right) of 1st Battalion, the Rifles, explains a sixth-century Anglo-Saxon burial he has just excavated to his colleague and fellow-student Corporal Steve Winterton, archaeology lecturer Deirdre O'Sullivan, and DL Administrator Kathy Ashley (left). Rfn Kendrick and Cpl Winterton were participating in OPERATION NIGHTINGALE's excavation at Barrow Clump, Wilts. Photo credit: Simon James.

Note for editors:

1.     Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) is part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). It is responsible for managing and maintaining land and properties to meet the current and future needs of the MOD and personnel at home and abroad, and to support current operations.

2.     Its work includes providing, supporting and improving: operational units; single living and service family accommodation; training areas and historic military sites.  DIO actively manages these to ensure the needs of Defence are met, value for money is achieved, heritage protected and environmental goals achieved.

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