of Napoleonic Guide Tours of Waterloo soon
and Photos by John Kay
Alan Lindsey for Tour Details
in Brussels (20km from Waterloo,
in Charleroi (35km from Waterloo,
in Namur (46km from Waterloo,
Hotels (29km from Waterloo, 21-minute
rolling farmland of Belgium, a short train journey from Brussels,
is dominated by an immense memorial to those who fought and died
on June 18, 1815, at Waterloo - the battle that determined the future
of Europe for 100 years.
by this history-changing clash of arms it was an easy choice to
visit the compact battlefield while travelling in Europe.
get a better understanding of Waterloo we decided to get a local
expert - albeit a British one - to lead us around the area.
Lindsey, our tour guide who lives in a nearby village, met our party
at the railway station and drove us to the site of one of the important
clashes of the 100 Days' Campaign at the crossroads at Quatra Bras.
was here on June 16 that a small Dutch and Belgian force, quickly
reinforced by British troops, delayed the French army's left wing
under Marshal Ney and denied him the vital crossroads and a link
to Napoleon Bonaparte's main army.
doing so, the Allies prevented the whole French army combining and
allowed the Duke of Wellington time to retreat and concentrate his
forces and meet the French onslaught near a small village called
though almost two hundred years have elapsed since this momentous
event and cars and trucks have replaced horses and carts the area
is eerily quiet.
described vividly the French forces massed in the middle distance
and the British infantry sheltering behind the reverse slopes as
cannon balls bounce over them; as Wellington remarked, 'a hard pounding,
could feel and visualize the thousands of Marshal Ney's cavalrymen
charging up the slope and over the ridge expecting to slaughter
their fleeing enemy only to find unbroken squares of British redcoats.
From the silent ranks poured shot and shell into the surprised French.
ploughed fields of today were head height maize that day and in
there several battalions of British troops were concealed waiting
for Napoleon's last desperate gamble to launch his formidable Old
Guard into the fray.
obliged and they were shot to a standstill, then into retreat and
finally butchered as they died to allow their Emperor to make his
are impressive memorials to the about 37,000 killed British, Prussian,
Dutch and Belgian soldiers.
many to the similar number of French casualties, although one is
remarkable, a small ossuary houses their unidentified bones.
is in the grounds of the old Caillou farmhouse, now a museum, containing
a comprehensive collection of Napoleonic memorabilia.
We ate delicious windfall apples in the orchard where the 'Old Guard'
rested on the eve of battle, for many of them this was their last
night of life.
the dining room on the ground floor Napoleon briefed his generals:
'We will brush aside this English aristocrat before lunch-time tomorrow
and take dinner in Brussels by night.'
fortified farmhouse of Hougoumont, many of its shattered walls rebuilt,
still shows the scars of the fierce firefight that raged around
the trees have never recovered from that day. One can imagine the
cries of the wounded and smell the blood, sweat and stench of gunpowder
in the quiet chapel that was used as a makeshift hospital.
1944 the Guards paused at Hougoumont to pay tribute to their own
battalions who had died to save Belgium and Europe from a tyrant.
years later their descendents were on their way to liberate Brussels
from the grip of yet another dictator.
the battleground a modern visitors centre contains a large diorama
of the conflict accompanied by music and chilling sound effects;
a theatre shows two excellent short films, and a museum with waxworks
of the generals of both sides.
the various museums around Waterloo there is a plethora of tributes
to satisfy Napoleonophiles, but very little evidence of other major
players in that days drama, especially the Prussian Commander, Marshall
Gebhard von Blucher and the Commander in Chief of the Allies the
Duke of Wellington.
say that history is written by the victors… but in this case, perhaps
Lindsey's skills are not confined to a detailed knowledge of the
strategy and tactics involved with the Battle of Waterloo - he is
also a very good host.
We spent a very enjoyable hour over an excellent lunch accompanied
by a fine carafe of Rose from Anjou.
in the afternoon Alan dropped us off at the railway station completing
the most informative and entertaining day of our European holiday.
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