Sunday, 15 February 2015

Walking the field of Waterloo



From the top: La Haye Sainte from the road today; The Lion Mound;
Marshal's confer in the museum 
A while ago i had the wonderful opportunity to visit the battlefield of Waterloo on a trip to Europe.  Having a spare day from a conference in Amsterdam I caught the train to Brussels whilst reading Andrew Uffindells "On the Fields of Glory" which described the site as it was and how it was to be found today (circa 2003).  Some four hours later I arrived and then took the local suburban line to Braine L'alleude.

Having arrived on a Sunday at around midday there was, much to my surprise, not a taxi to be found.  A quick walk across the road to the bar across the way revealed that the drivers had all gone home for their lunch.  The bar manager, finding out that I had come all the way from Australia, through the keys to the till to his friend playing cards, beckoned me to follow and within fifteen minutes his elderly mother and he had driven me to the visitors centre without wanting a euro in return.

A lovely memory of lovely, gentile and courteous local folks helping a stranger in need.


From right to left: French Horse artillery dolman and shako; The plaque on La Haye Sainte honouring the men who fought there; The "Wounded Eagle Memorial" to the French dead.

Having arrived at the centre on a rainy, grey afternoon, it was soon revealed that the regular tour guide had called in sick with a cold.  Never mind, we rang a local taxi company and for 50 Euros he drove me around the battlefield at my leisure.

It was amazing.

Hougoumont was wonderful and still a working farm from what I was told.  The museum near La Haie Sainte was both tremendous and hilarious at the same time.  So many wonderful exhibits behind glass with a button to push to hear an English translation of the scene.  Can you imagine my mirth hearing a Terry Thomas impersonator with perfect English Oxford diction, read his script on tape complete with rustling papers, glasses being placed on the recording table etc.

So good.

The opportunity to visit the Panorama de la Bataille, housed in a wonderful circular building was a once in a lifetime ocurrence.  Though my photographs were far too dark to show here, I did purchase a wonderful postcard that concertinas out to show the entire depiction of the battle.  Tremendous.

The pictures below depict from the bottom, the plaque outside the North gates of Hougoumont.  Directly behind this wall is "The Great Barn" which according to Mark Adkins, has changed little since the battle itself.  The plaque is a memorial to the 3rd Foot Guard, 2nd battalion, who died defending the gates.

The picture of the Carabinier and Cuirassier breastplates and helmets is actually from Invalides however I always think of the brassy, golden uniformed heavy cavalry of Napoleons charging during the 1815 campaign for some reason.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent. I've just finished reading "On The Fields of Glory" as well. I'm yet to get though.

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    1. It was quite surreal Mark. Reading about whre I was heading, Uffindels excellent method of using language and ngaging you with what lies there now and what was encountered on the day of battle. It was truly an unforgettable day.

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  2. Brilliant! Your a lucky man Carlo!

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    1. Thanks Paul - it was lots of fun. I should take a few shots of the Panorama card I have to show just how wonderful it was.

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  3. Glad you got a chance to visit. Definitely on my "someday" list as well.

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    1. So am I Peter. However I missed a chance the next year to visit Gettysburg when in Washington and still regret that to this day. Maybe in a few years...

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    1. Absolutely Nathan - however I am so envious of all your ACW battlefield visits were you in the States a few years back! Still lok at them on your blog frequently mate.

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