At the Waterloo re-enactment

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Wellington portayed during the re-anactment

Wellington portayed during the re-anactment…

Waterloo, in Belgium, is a small town located seventeen kilometres south of Brussels. The town is very close to forests and its name may have originated from the Latin words for ‘water” and “loo”, which literally means wet forest. This unknown, small hamlet in the province of Walloon became a well-known landmark on the world map as a result of the famed battle between Napoleon Bonaparte and the Alliance of the Seventh Coalition formed by the most powerful monarchs of Europe under the command of the Duke of Wellington on 18th June 1815.

Although the most of key offensives happened in Braine-l’Alleud, a commune adjacent to Waterloo, Wellington designated the battle after the name of Waterloo where his headquarters was located.

and Napoleon

and Napoleon

I was one of the 65,000 spectators who witnessed the recreation of the battle of Waterloo, one of the largest re-enactments in the world, on the original grounds of the historical battle. The allied forces stood in colourful uniforms reminiscent of the original, against their French opponents to make history in one of deadliest battles of the world in a single day.

Before I could get a full-scale view of both armies in the field, which were surrounded by stands on both sides, cannon and gunfire clouded the air with foggy smoke. Often the visibility became limited and it was hard to see what was going on in the far distance. It was the same reality for such a war with all its confusion and chaos which takes place in a real war. I was standing behind the allies’ cannon artillery. The soldiers in dark uniforms were firing without any real cannon balls or bullets. Further down I could see a line of soldiers in red uniforms that were shooting their muskets and rifles into the air. Their proud riders on horseback rushed around the field watching over ground soldiers.

part of the procession

part of the procession

What I witnessed was just a show and far from the real event. But the great performance transformed me back in time to the real battle in the past. I could hear not only the blast of gunpowder, but also cries of soldiers who were wounded. The battle was a dreadful scene, a field of slaughtered humans and horses. There was no escape or protection for anyone when deadly mortar balls landed. Soldiers and artillery advanced forward but piles of dead and injured on both sides were the biggest obstacles in front of advancing troops. When they got closer in a face-to-face combat, the fight got even more severe with the use of pistols and swords involving hand to hand clashes. The cavalry rode around the field delivering sword blows on soldiers, wounding them. Ten hours of battle fighting ended in the defeat of 93,000 French troops who were facing 107,000 allied forces, but the story is still alive after 200 years.

part of the battle formations watched by huge crowds

part of the battle formations watched by huge crowds

The men and women, enthusiasts and historians who participated in this once in a life time mass re-enactment spent hundreds of pounds on costumes and weapons and came together to stage the event as accurately as possible. To them it is not only a celebration of victory, but also a commemoration and tribute to those who died in battle. The biggest show on earth was a live open-air history lesson including 6,200 re-enactors, 120 cannons, 330 cavalry men and 2,000 infantry, watched by 64,000 spectators. Two metric tonnes of gunpowder were used over two days of reenactments.

The deadly confrontation in 1815 was not only a significant event to redraw the map of Europe, but also the challenge of two ideologies, that of republicanism and aristocracy.. He was a man who rose to power through a revolution and managed to put together France, which was in an acute period of unrest and uprising.

Following the Battle of Waterloo and an uprising in the Walloon region in 1830, Belgium was created with the support of Britain and become an independent county. The country is divided into two parts of Flanders (Dutch speaking) and Walloon (French speaking), an artificial creation to make a buffer zone between France and the Netherlands.

in tribute to those that died

in tribute to those that died

The Wellington Museum in Chausse de Bruxelles in the town of Waterloo, a former Bodenheim inn built in the 17th century, was the headquarter of Wellington and his army staff and allied forces during the battle where he stayed there on 17th and 18th June 1815. The museum houses the Duke’s bedroom, his office where he wrote his victory report, and his aide-de-camp’s bedroom. There are other rooms dedicated to each ally army. The museum also displays genuine documents, weapons and the uniforms of various nations.

The Wellington museum, as part of the 200th anniversary of the battle, put together a special comparative exhibition, exploring the lives and paths of the two legendary characters of Wellington and Napoleon, showing their shared destinies with a display of their personal belongings, such as Napoleon’s bicorne hat along with his uniform, and Wellington’s cape, hat and telescope. This special exhibition is open until 31st July 2015.

the Lion's Mound

the Lion’s Mound

The Memorial 1815 was inaugurated in May as part of commemoration of the battle and before the bicentenary ceremony. The memorial is a unique presentation of the history of the battle that welcomes visitors to the site of the battlefield. This museum offers a 4D audiovisual show, – is a gateway to the site of the battlefield and provides access to the panaroma and Lion’s Mound.

The panorama is a circular building housing a painting of the battle. It is 110 meters long and 12 meters high in spherical form. The audio-guided experience gives the visitor the impression of being in the battlefield encircled by the infantry and cavalry of both armies.

The Lion’s Mound is positioned in Braine-l’Alleud at the place where the Prince of Orange was wounded during the battle. The Mound, which is 43m in height and gives the visitors panoramic view on the site of the battle, was constructed by the order of King William of Netherlands and completed in 1826.

Two other interesting places to visit are Quartier-Général de Napoléon Museum in the Caillou farmhouse and Hougoumont Farm Memorial.

he Lego exhibition of Waterloo which runs until the end of the month

the Lego exhibition of Waterloo which runs until the end of the month

Napoleon spent the night before the Battle of Waterloo in a farmhouse which was converted to become his headquarters. The museum, four kilometres away from the Lion’s Mound, includes his personal belongings, maps, weapons, paintings and other items related to the battle. The original dining table where Napoleon spread his battle-plan map is also on display.

The Hougoumont Farm was opened to the public on 18th June 2015 after Prince Charles unveiled a memorial in tribute to British soldiers who were killed at the battle of Waterloo. The ceremony was also a reunion of descendants of the three famous commanders who shaped Waterloo: Duke of Wellington, Prince Charles Bonaparte and Prince Blucher von Wahlstatt.

In some ways, it is a pity that the re-enactment cannot be held every day for it was that which brought the whole battle and the history around it to life. Even allowing for that, Waterloo is a unique must see experience for all ages.

For more information about Belgium, click here.

Images © www.amirinia.com. For more images of Waterloo and videos go to  www.amirinia.com/waterloo-2015/  or click here.

 

 

 

 

 

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