Operation Nightingale

An initiative to assist the recovery of wounded, injured and sick military personnel and veterans by getting them involved in archaeological investigations.

About Op Nightingale

The initiative is controlled by the Ministry of Defence and is a registered trademark (UK00003192564). It has been running since 2011 and has undertaken fieldwork in the UK and overseas, with hundreds of military personnel having worked on projects.

First World War Practice Trenches, Digging for Britain BBC Digging for Britain with the Op Nightingale excavations at Perham Down.

Video transcript for Digging for Britain Series 5

This file is in an OpenDocument format

Owning around 1% of the UK mainland, the defence estate holds a lot of the nation’s heritage. 770 scheduled monuments are within this portfolio and this presents not only a major challenge for the 4 archaeologists that work for this government department, but also a fabulous opportunity to share cultural heritage opportunities with these volunteers.

This work, not only assists the wellbeing of participants but also contributes towards the department’s commitment to the stewardship of the historic estate. Operation Nightingale has also worked alongside several military related charities and the excavation work has led to numerous publications and also to new artefacts being displayed in museum galleries.

You can follow us on Facebook to find out what we’re working on.

Applying to participate

The Community Interest Company, Breaking Ground Heritage is a charity is run by military veterans, It is one of the main providers of volunteers for Op Nightingale digs.

If you are a veteran or serving personnel can apply for Op Nightingale projects through their website.

The website also holds excavation reports and films of many Op Nightingale sites.

Defence Archaeology Group (DAG), run by serving military personnel, are another provider of volunteers. If you are serving personnel, you can apply for projects through the DAG website.

Further information

Wessex Archaeology is one of the main commercial providers of Op Nightingale projects. You can read more about their work for projects on the Wessex Archaeology website.

You can read the DIO blogpost Breaking Ground with Operation Nightingale, an interview with Ex-Marine Dickie Bennett, a participant on Op Nightingale ventures

You can read the DIO blogpost Operation Nightingale, an interview with Alex Sotheran, a MOD archaeologist who works on Op Nightingale sites.

Excavations on a Saxon Cemetery on Salisbury Plain

A photojournalist playlist of images of the excavations of the Saxon cemetery at Barrow Clump in 2017. This video has no dialogue.

BBC film on Operation Nightingale work at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain, and the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon sword in 2014

Sanctuary magazine

We have features in the following MOD’s Sanctuary Magazine. All the links below will open in PDF.

Sanctuary: issue 47, 2018
Sanctuary: issue 46, 2017
Sanctuary: issue 45, 2016
Sanctuary: issue 44, 2015

You can also read other editions of Sanctuary Magazine.


Op Nightingale winning a National Archaeology Award
Op Nightingale winning a National Conservation award (Daily telegrah article)

Published 17 January 2019
Last updated 7 August 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added accessible video transcripts for 2 videos on the page.

  2. Amended the summary to keep the page up to date.

  3. First published.