We recently took a trip with friends to Waterloo, a battle that loomed large in generating our childhood interest in military history. The dramatic heroic paintings of Hougoumont, of the Scots Greys charge, of British squares resisting Marshal Ney’s cavalry, may have had more to do with Victorian fantasies – but they were so powerful.
Then the hordes of Airfix 20mm soldiers were the playthings that drifted us dangerously close to wargaming. But once adult and – supposedly mature – we thought little more of the Napoleonic Wars.
The World Wars seemed closer, after all many veterans were then still alive, but old interests lingered. What reawakened them? Partly Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels, amplified by the rumbustious portrayal by Sean Bean on the telly. Was it realistic, no, but it was fun! On a whim we visited Waterloo pre-COVID-19 and suddenly the bug bit hard! Our shelves of Napoleonic books mushroomed, much to the irritation of our beloved wives. The more we read, the more interesting it got – isn’t it always the same?
We did three podcasts on the battle and realised it was truly an Allied victory. The German States, the Belgians, the Dutch, and most of all the Prussians, played a huge part. There is no need to denigrate Wellington and the British – their martial performance had been fantastic – but we were drawn to the amazing character of Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher.