Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Waterloo 2015 re-enactment

It's over a month now since I was lucky enough to visit the bicentennial re-enactment of the battle of Waterloo. And what a show it was!

With 6.000 actors, 300 horses and some 60.000 spectators, the show can be said to have attained epic proportions. Put together, this was approximately the strength of the Anglo-Allied army that fought the battle 200 years ago. The combined casualty count of the three armies (65.000 according to Wikipedia) was also of this magnitude. This helps put things into perspective.

The re-enactment took place over maybe a fifth of the battlefield, at the place where the main thrust of d'Erlon's attack struck. I attended the re-enactment on both evenings. The re-enactment went a lot better on the second evening (Saturday), with the reenactors working better in unison and inter-unit coordination working better. Also the "battle narrative" unfolded better on Saturday. 

In a show of this magnitude things undoubtedly go wrong and this time was no different. A number of horses were quite skittish and plenty of riders were thrown off. Apparently there were accidents with the blackpowder as well and one reenactor seems to have died. There was a minute of silence for him/her on Saturday.

Deploying the forces

Even in the centre of Brussels, it was impossible to miss the reenactors. Apparently the French had made it to Brussels, since a contingent of French Imperial Guard were loitering near our hotel on the day of the battle. The French were in a celebratory mood, having a few beers, re-dressing Manneken Piss as a French general and to the accompaniment of a marching band after firing off a few celebratory volleys!

French troops loitering outside of our hotel

Imperial Guard maintaining order

Volleys were fired and cries of "Vive l'Empéreur" shouted as Manneken Piss was re-garbed

The French march to war

Meanwhile the Prussian Landwehr seemed to be in no hurry to assist Wellington

Blucher incites his troops to fight bravely by recounting tales from his youth

Finally the Landwehr march to war

The Prussians were supported by contingents of Austrians and Swedes!

The "deployment" of the spectators was aided by music by this French marching band

There were a number of civilian re-enactors as well.

French infantry deploys

View of the spectators' stands bordering the battlefield

Wellington contemplates what to do with all the spectators deployed behind his main battle line

The French "grande battery"

Miniature version of La Haye Sainte

The Anglo-Allied army deploys.

French guard cavalry

Prussian artillery

Prussian hussars seem drawn to cameras like moths to the flame

Napoleon surveys the scene with his staff

Wellington rouses the troops

Not to be outdone, Napoleon tours the spectator stands

Opening moves: French attack

Battle commences with skirmishes between restless light cavalrymen

Infantry skirmishers open fire

The Grande Batterie opens up with a massive volley...

... answered by the Anglo-allies

D'Erlon's corps (French) advance

La Haye Sainte is assaulted

French cresting the ridge

Artillery fire canister



Artillery visibility became impaired after only a few volleys

Allied counter-attack

Dutch cavalry prepare to mount a counter-attack

French form squares

French infantry are massacred

The eagle of the 45e ligne is proudly displayed by its captors

Scots greys pursue too far...

... and are counter-attacked by French guard cavalry and cuirassiers

British cavalry is massacred

Ney's cavalry charge

Both sides recoup. Artillery fire continues unabated.

Suddenly the French launch an all-out cavalry assault

The allies hastily form squares

A lone British square is swarmed by French cavalry

Wellington contemplates

The Prussians are here!

Prussians begin to arrive!

Lobau's French troops reform hurriedly to block the Prussian threat

Final French assault

The French prepare one final infantry offensive at the perceived weak centre

The French are met with scathing fire

The assault is repulsed and the Imperial Guard begins to retreat

The Prussians steamroller the exhausted French right flank

The Allies begin an all-out attack

French casualties are strewn about the field in the wake of their pursuers


Even a month after having taken part in this great event I am very much in awe - not only of this spectacle but of what the combatants experienced two hundred years ago. Taking part in the re-enactments has definitely helped me understand this battle better and put the numbers and events into perspective. I am grateful for those people in the 21st century that made this event possible and hope that we can all appreciate and honour the sacrifices made on this field in 1815.

In memory of all those that died on the field of Waterloo in 1815 and 2015

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah, don't forget to check my mate's blog for more pics and another intake on the event: