Waterloo Men.

The 18th of June, is the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, a pivotal moment in European history. Don’t worry I haven’t been nearly so industrious as to have written a lengthy blow by blow account of the fight, hopefully I have been a little more original, So if you have a moment for commemoration please follow me.

If I typed the word “First World War” without capitalising it my computer will tell me there is a grammatical error. Curious I typed the word Waterloo without a caps lock and was pleasantly surprised to see it smartly autocorrected, then I realised I had written it as the first word of a sentence and was swiftly disillusioned.

If we were back in the days before the First World War we would probably refer to the 18th of June as Waterloo day. Seemingly bigger events have since occurred to put this tradition out of use, enemies have become allies and allies enemies and it is easy to forget that to many people of the past the Napoleonic Wars, or as they were simply called in those days “The Great War,” was as big an occurrence to them as the Second World War was to our grandparents. There is a sanguinary lesson to be learned by the legacy of Waterloo in that unlike World War Two people are often forced to ask the question “What is the Legacy of Waterloo?” or “Why was Waterloo fought?” Now what would Churchill say if we treated that great struggle as we have treated Waterloo, or perhaps worse, what would Wellington say?

“Who’s alive?” was what the powder stained hero’s asked one another after nearly eight and a half hours of battle. Half deafened with cracked lips and throats dry and painful from cartridge powder they walked stiffly to regiment to regiment to ask news, with blackened shoulders almost dislocated from constant firing. In the fading light of Sunday the 18th of June 1815, their ringing ears might have drowned out the heart rending sounds of the battlefield but sadly nothing could blind their eyes from the terrible sights that with every step, taken carefully so as not to step on the dead or wounded, brought them.

Over 50,000 of some 140,000 British, French, Prussians, Belgians, Dutch, Hanoverians and other Germans became casualties that day, and for the British, the survivors were identified in the record books by the ubiquitous stamp, WM, next to their name and in time a silver medal to wear on their coat.

Through the course of the future events, that indirectly they helped to bring about, has all but obliterated the great and small men who laid the foundations of modern Europe that day, it is still clear to some when they look at the ancient photograph of a bent old man and see the distinctive little disc shining on his lapel, or see the silent glory hidden in that proud two letter cipher that tells you that that very unassuming gentleman in that creased and yellowed picture was at Waterloo.

So without further ado, taken between 1844 and 1890s these are the faces of some of the last British survivors of the Battle of Waterloo, I present the Waterloo Men (Heroic music would have be really good here!)

His Grace Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington 1844

His Grace Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington 1844

Lord Fitzroy Somerset 1855 as Lord Raglan CinC in the Crimea.

Lord Fitzroy Somerset 1855 as Lord Raglan CinC in the Crimea.

Sir Harry Smith 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot.

Sir Harry Smith 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot.

John Kincaid 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot

John Kincaid 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot

Frederick Hope Pattison 33rd (Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment of Foot 1871.

Frederick Hope Pattison 33rd (Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment of Foot 1871.

Chelsea Pensioners 1880, 4 Waterloo men and a Napoloenic Wars Veteran (standing right), see below

Chelsea Pensioners 1880, 4 Waterloo men and a Napoloenic Wars Veteran (standing right).

Richard Bentick (23rd, Royal Welch, Fusiliers Medal with Clasps and Waterloo Medal).

Richard Bentick (23rd, Royal Welch, Fusiliers Medal with Clasps and Waterloo Medal).

Ned Costello 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot

Ned Costello 95th Rifles, wearing his General Service and Waterloo Medals.

On the Right, John Isaac Cameron 79th (Cameron) Highlanders, and on the left Paul Abraham 7eme Ligne.

On the Right, John Isaac Cameron 79th (Cameron) Highlanders, and on the left Paul Abraham 7eme Ligne. 1890

Lt Colonel John Colborne (As Baron Seaton) commander 52nd (Oxfordshire) Light Infantry.

John Colborne (Pictured as Baron Seaton, became a Field Marshal) commanded the 52nd Light Infantry at Waterloo.

Private John Jack 52nd (Oxfordshire) Light Infantry 90 years old at the time of this photo in 1870.

Private John Jack 52nd (Oxfordshire) Light Infantry 90 years old at the time of this photo in 1870.

Captain Charles Holman 52nd (Oxfordshire) Light Infantry.

Captain Charles Holman 52nd (Oxfordshire) Light Infantry.

General George De Lacy Evans, Aide de Camp to Sir William Ponsonby at Waterloo.

General George De Lacy Evans, Aide de Camp to Sir William Ponsonby at Waterloo.

Sergeant John Gibson 33rd foot. As a prison warden.

Sergeant John Gibson 33rd foot. As a prison warden.

Field Marshal Sir William Rowan GCB 1789-1879. Major 52nd Light Infantry at Waterloo.

Field Marshal Sir William Rowan GCB 1789-1879. Major 52nd Light Infantry at Waterloo.

James Ormsby Sr, 52nd Light Infantry.

James Ormsby Sr, 52nd Light Infantry.

Shadrack Purton 52nd Light Infantry.

Shadrack Purton 52nd Light Infantry.

 

 

Sir Alexander Cameron

Major General Sir Alexander Cameron, (Major at Waterloo) 95th Rifles/

Duke of Richmond

Charles Gordon Lennox, (Captain, Lord March, at Waterloo) 5th Duke of Richmond, ADC to the Prince of Orange.

Corporal John Derry, Kings Dragoon Guards.

Corporal John Derry, Kings Dragoon Guards.

 

Richard Simmons, (Pictured as postman) 40th Foot.

Richard Simmons,  40th Foot.

 

General (Colonel at Waterloo) Sir George Scovell, Assistant Quartermaster General.

General (Colonel at Waterloo) Sir George Scovell, Assistant Quartermaster General.

 

General Sir Alexander Clarke Kennedy. Captain in the 1st Royal Dragoons (Royals) from the early 1860s. He with Corporal Styles captured the Eagle of the 105e Ligne.

General Sir Alexander Clarke Kennedy. Captain in the 1st Royal Dragoons (Royals) from the early 1860s. He with Corporal Styles captured the Eagle of the 105e Ligne. Both “Eagle Snatchers” were Scots at Waterloo.

 

Mrs Elizabeth Watkins, the last British eyewitness of the Battle of Waterloo. Died in 1903.

Mrs Elizabeth Watkins, the last British eyewitness of the Battle of Waterloo. Born 1810 Died in 1904.

Although it is very un-PC of me I have concentrated solely on the British and some of the French veterans of the battle. This is not a product of any Anglocentric nature on my part but rather my failure to find any photographs of German or Netherlands veterans, and a disinclination to flood the post with the many French ones which are more readily available to be viewed online.

(With thanks to Napoleonic Wars Forum Members OxfordMon and Andrew W. Field for their permission to post their pictures)

I hope you have enjoyed seeing the Waterloo Men. More info about Waterloo and the upcoming 200th anniversary can be found at Waterloo200.org. Thanks for stopping by, see you next time for another Adventure in Historyland.

Josh.

30 thoughts on “Waterloo Men.

  1. outstanding – a wonderful tribute to this memorable day and to those who fought – thank you for keeping it in our thoughts, lest we forget

  2. What a great bunch of pictures. I love the way early photography is like a window to the past.
    A few Nov. 11th’s ago, the CBC in Canada played a 1900 sound recording of a British vet who demonstrated how he sounded a cavalry charge on the same bugle he blew during the Crimean War. The kicker was that very same bugle blew the very same charge 40 years early in the battle of Waterloo.

  3. THERE IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF SCOVELL IN THE BOOK [ THE MAN WHO BROKE NAPOLEONS CODES,BYMARK URBAN] I HOPE THIS IS OF SOME USE TO YOU.

    • Thanks it is very helpful, I have the book, but sadly I couldn’t find the picture online, such is life, but it still might turn up somewhere, or I can stop being lazy and scan it…

  4. Do you have access to the names of all British survivors of Waterloo? I think my ancestor, Lt-Col the Honorable Peter Adamson, K.T.S., may have been one. He fought in the Peninsular War as a member of the 71st Highland Light Infantry and was attached to the Portugese forces there. His regiment was attached as part of the 3rd Brigade in Maj.General Sir Henry Clinton’s 2nd Division at Waterloo. I have typed up a short biography of him, & have a picture of him in all his medals when he was about 90 years old.

    • I don’t but I am in contact with some people who do on the Napoleonic Wars Forum. If you like I can try and find out for you, or of you are a member you can sign in and ask them. Your bio of your anscestor and photo sounds very interesting and I’m sure the chaps on the NWF would be very interested.

  5. IN THE WATERLOO MEDAL CATALOGUE THERE ARE 5 PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE LAST SURVIVORS OF WATERLOO,LT COL BASIL JACKSON,GENERAL GEORGE WHICHCOTE, LT COL WILLIAM HEWETT,GENERAL THE EARL OF ALBERMERLE, AND PRIVATE SAMUEL GIBSON.THERE IS ALSO A PHOTOGRAPH OF MAURICE SHEA,IN ALAN LAGDENS [THE2/73 AT WATERLOO.]

  6. Thank you for this fascinating article. I am currently curating an exhibition about Waterloo and we are very keen to include some original photographs of survivors. I wonder if you might be able to tell me where any of the pictures you use are located?

    • Thank you for your kind words. These pictures come from various websites and forums, at the time of posting no one had tried to collect all the British survivors in one place and I’m stil searching myself. This website of which I am a member has many experts which can help you, and this thread is dedicated to veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, some of the images came through the kind assistance of the other members, http://www.napoleonicwarsforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=53&t=1462

      Most of the officers are easily findable online though, via Wikipedia etc, John Jack’s is on the 52nd Light Infantry’s page for instance. If you have any particular one’s in mind my email address is on the contact page, and I’ll try and remember where I found them.

      All the best.
      Josh.

  7. wonderful pictures, thank you! have you read “an infamous army” by Georgette Heyer, set at Waterloo? just brilliant to see all the people she mentions brought to life! (Btw, it’s so historically accurate it’s used at Sandhurst Military Academy)

    • Thanks for getting in touch! Yes I have read Heyer, the Spanish Bride too! I very much enjoyed Infamous Army, she is indeed hard to fault and ridiculously detailed. And I would only question a few of her depictions, (I have forgotten which I’ll have to re-read, but I think they were very small trifles). The Waterloo scene is especially evocative of the carnage on the 18th, I’m so glad you liked my humble effort!

      Josh.

  8. I am writing a magazine article on Waterloo at the moment, slanted towards the people rather than the military exploits. Finding details of ordinary men and woman has proved hard to find and your images have been really good to see. Do you know of any copyright on photos, in particular the Chelsea Hospital group? Anyway, thanks for making these touching images available.
    Jan Toms

  9. I read ‘Spanish Bride’ and ‘Infamous Army’ aged 14, and have been hooked on the Peninsular War and Waterloo ever since: that’s 50 years by the way! For my 50th birthday present my husband and I toured some Peninsular War battlefields: Torres Vedras, Rolica, Vimeiro, Fuentes d’Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, we drove over the battlefield of Vitoria as a motorway now goes across (Sir Julian Paget’s book was invaluable by the way), and we ended up at Waterloo on the anniversary of the battle (which was also a Sunday). It’s one of the most memorable trips of my life. I have also visited Whittlesey to pay homage to Harry and Juana Smith. Last year, I was determined to find John Kincaid’s grave, and after hunting around – even with instructions from the very helpful staff at the cemetary in Hastings it was difficult to find – eventually realised I was stood on it!!! I felt sure Johnny Kincaid would have found that amusing! But it was sad to see such a neglected sloping stone. He was such a hero.

    • Spanish Bride is the best PWar novel in existence in my opinion, and Infamous Army stands alone as well. You are lucky to have been able to visit the fields. I have read Kincaid’s book as well & feel sure he’d have laughed with u about it. Sad to hear of the neglect though.

  10. One third of the soldiers at Waterloo were Irish. If the Iniskillings hadn’t held the centre, the French would have likely prevailed.

    • As Wellington said, “they saved the centre of my line.” I wasn’t signalling out any particular group of the British army, as the Scots played as big a role, but facts like these are good to see, so thanks.
      Josh.

    • Hi, my ancestor
      Was in the battle and survived he was in the 6inniskillin dragoons, but I can’t find a death date for him

      • Hi.

        If you give me some basic stats, such as name, rank, DOB if applicable, date of enlistment, if known, then I’ll ask around for you. (Any previous military service might help too)

        Josh.

  11. Great photos and good letters. Those with the interest should read “Four Days in June” by Iain Gale. Not sure how totally accurate it is but details of historical characters, uniforms, timing of battles and maps are included with some bio details available at the back. I’m wooed again back to these times as 2 excellent documentaries have come up on cable over the last month. One-“After Waterloo” argues that although Wellington won the war, Napoleon won the greater lasting influence in history via building/law/education reform etc. Interesting argument!

  12. Very much enjoyed. Small complaint. You state that 50,000 “died” at Waterloo. By conventional extrapolation for killed to wounded that would come to 325,000 of the 140,000 participants in the battle were killed, wounded or captured. 😉

    50,000 “casualties”; not dead.

    🙂

  13. Pingback: Remarkable cases of longevity in the 19th century - Shannon Selin

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