205th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – A Commemoration
by Sue Parsons
205 years ago, on the 18th June 1815, the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo brought to an end the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. A combined army of 68,000 British, Dutch, Belgian, German, Hanoverian, Brunswick, Nassau, and around 50,000 Prussians fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s army of 72,000. The resultant casualties numbered upwards of 60,000 men dead, wounded, or missing.
Every June on the weekend nearest to the historic date of the Battle, a re-enactment is held on the original battlefield. The Allied forces camp in the remains of the Chateau de Hougoumont. The battlefield is located in the Belgian municipalities of Braine-l’Alleud and Lasne, about 9 miles south of Brussels, and about 1 mile south of the town of Waterloo. The battle is so named for the town, owing to it being the location of the Duke’s Headquarters on the evening of the 17th.
In a regular year there will be 600–800 reenactors. The 5-year-anniversaries are greater events with 1,500–2,000 re-enactors. But at Waterloo 200 in 2015, over 6000 reenactors attended from France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, USA, Germany, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Chile among others. There were 64,000 spectators to the event.
Local historian and reenactor Rory Butcher was due to go to Belgium this June for the 205th anniversary of the battle, but unfortunately this was cancelled for obvious reasons. Instead, he and other reenactors felt that they would like to attend their local cemeteries on the 18th June 2020, in order to commemorate veterans of the battle. Graves and memorials were visited across the country – from Kent to Scotland!
Foster Hill Road Cemetery has a number of memorials to veterans who fought at Waterloo and our military specialist, Colin Woolf, identified 4 graves which fitted Rory’s requirements.
The 18th June 2020 was a very wet day for a commemoration, but this did not deter Rory, his partner, or Colin. Rory looked resplendent in the uniform of the 44th (East Essex), a regiment which had fought in Spain, America, and during the entire Waterloo Campaign. Following an appropriately distanced ceremony at the Cross of Sacrifice, a poppy was laid at each of the 4 graves.
Private William Appleby 40th Regiment of Foot. Served with the Regiment for 53 years. Died 4th June 1860 aged 74 years. Grave ref: E8-98.
Sergeant Major Matthew Clay. Died 5th June 1873 aged 77 years. Grave ref: H8-243.
John Torr, a valued soldier with the 7th Queens Own Hussars. Died 3rd November 1875 aged 82 years. Grave ref: F2-23
George Simon Ainslie Harcourt, Ensign 69th (South Lincolnshire) Regiment of Foot. Died 28th December 1868 aged 72 years. Grave ref: G3-185. Family graves.
Lest we forget.
(Photographs courtesy of Colin Woolf)
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