Mark Evans (40) is one of the founding members of Waterloo Uncovered. He’s one of the people that work the longest hours on the dig, making sure that the excavations run smoothly.
Before setting up the charity with Charles Foinette, Mark was an officer in the Coldstream Guards. Since leaving the army, he’s had a varied career including, among other things, writing a book about his experiences in Afghanistan (Under The Bearskin), and running a yoga studio‐ something that’s come in handy on the dig, with daily meditation sessions on site.
The aim of setting up Waterloo Uncovered was to create a community where veterans and serving personnel can help to recover from some of the physical and mental impacts of their service through work on an archaeological dig. The fact that Waterloo Uncovered is now in its fourth year on site at the battlefield is evidence of it’s success in doing great archaeological work whilst helping members of the team rebuild their confidence, learn new skills and, in some cases, find a new direction to their lives.
Like some fellow members of the team, Mark’s military service left him with a legacy of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “For myself, it is nice to be around soldiers again, to reconnect with people – it wasn’t like that for a while.”
When the project first started taking off in 2014, Mark and Charlie held “no huge expectations”. “We started out thinking it would only be for one year, and we got very lucky that Château d’Hougoumont would allow us to dig on their site,” he says. “In fact, what we found was a very supportive Belgian community – and, even more importantly, we found we were doing something good.” It is not unusual for team members to build lasting friendships. “There’s just so much goodwill, so much genuine friendship surrounding this project – we want to provide that to other people.”
After the first year, Mark feels Waterloo Uncovered could just have ended there and then. But that would have missed a chance to build on what they had learned. Instead, they “chose to offer others the same opportunity.” The Coldstream Guards notably helped the project through its first 6 months – “for which I am forever grateful,” Mark adds. Ever since, the team has just kept expanding. “It is very exciting to do archaeology where no excavations have been done before – and we find out so much about just one day in history.” He does have to admit: “I’ve yet to spend much time in the trenches. Fortunately, we have a very capable team working on the excavations. People really are on top of their game, everyone is so collaborative,” he says. “I always wish there had been something like this for me before.”