Thursday, 25 June 2015

Waterloo 2015 - Part 3 - The Reenactment show

Did you read parts 1 and 2 of my Waterloo 2015 report:
As usual click on the pictures to enlarge.
In the late afternoon we had finished our visits at the Allied and French bivaucs and we decided that there's probably not enough time the visit Napoleon's camp as well. It would have been a walk of at least a mile and of course we had
to go back to the reenactment area in time for the great show. Thus we took a break and had a nice - though expensive - cup of coffee in a cafe nearby. A welcome chance to rest our tired limbs. After that we started our way back to 'La Haye Sainte' where our stand was next to. But obviously we were not the only spectators heading to the scene of events:
Countless visitors on their way to the stadium.

Finally there we caught a glimpse of the massive battlefield. I don't know its size but it was enormous:
The huge area for the reenactment show.
Then we had a small dinner with French fries and fricandel and finally took our seats half before the battle was to start. Enough time to enjoy the view of the huge battlefield and to watch the French army approaching. Unfortunately the British took position rather far away from us. Fortunately we had our binoculars and a telephoto lens with us. Without them we had been completely lost:
French staff enters the stage.
Parts of the French 'Grande Batterie'
British and KGL riflemen as pickets.

French infantry columns advancing.

A limbered artillery piece - Reinforcements for the 'Grande Batterie'
The guns take position.
Manhandled artillery.
More columns and two gendarmes dashing along.

A forward deployed gun.
Then finally the preparations for the battle ended. Both armies had their initial positions and the stage was set for the supreme commanders. Unfortunately we didn't get a clear view of the 'Iron Duke' but Napoleon couldn't resist riding a victory lap before the battle even had started:
The Corsican.
Thus the highlight of our trip started. But rather soon we realized that scarcely anything happened in front of our stand. At the beginning we had the Grande Batterie in front of us and saw them shooting and reloading but we didn't see anything of the five large infantry columns whose approach we witnessed. As soon as they started their advance towards the British line they disappeared behind a slope and all the fighting seemed to take place somewhere at the valley bottom. Although we enjoyed the overall experience of the depicted battlefield we got increasingly disappointed of our point of view. Honestly I suppose that organisers installed more stands then appropriate for this area and most the spectators at the standing places had a much better view than us. Although I don't begrudge them this I'm feal treated rather unjustly for paying a lot more money for seeing worse.

Anyway I was able to capture some impressions with a teleskopic lense. They give an idea of how we experienced the show since I took them with full zoom:
The British guard at the beginning of the battle with first clouds of gunsmoke.
The guards in line formation.
French infantry disappearing behind the slope.

French skirmishers in front of the guards.
A small number of attackers compared with the columns we observed before the battle.
Several lines of Allied soldiers. Don't ask me for details...
British redcoats firing.
The guards form square and the French cavalry has to veer.
Royal Horse Artillery firing.
At 10 pm. the show was over and we went back to the car. Traffic guidance was perfectly organised and a lot of Belgian policemen and policewomen cared for the smooth flow of the leaving visitors. Thus we found our way back to the motorway rather fast and headed home. After a three hour drive I was finally at home about 2 am. and a wonderful day found its late ending.

Overall the trip was perfect to me. It was a great day with two dear friends and there were a lot of interesting things for Napoleonic enthusiasts like us. The morning in the Allied camp was awesome and I would have love to slip into a red coat instantly. Afterwards the get-together with Carl was pleasant beyond comparison and although the French seemed a bit tired their camp was an interesting place as well. The show was a bit disappointing because our perspective but altogether that doesn't spoil that day. Somewhere I read that they're planing to organise a similarly large event in ten years so my schedule for June 2025 is set!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Waterloo 2015 - Part 2 - The French camp

Did you read part 1 of my Waterloo 2015 report:

As usual click on the pictures to enlarge.

Thus finally we had to our backs on the Allies and headed towards the 'Village du Lion' and the French camp. The former was a tent city which inhabitad a couple of merchant with all kinds of Napoleonic memorabilia. Books, uniform pieces, weapons, battlefield tours, mechandising products of the becentenary and such things. Unforntunately the uniform pieces and sabres were too expensive and too French for my tastes so the only piece I bought was a musket ball (supposedly) found at the battlefield of Waterloo. Its 17mm diametre lead me to the assumption that it's a French one. Anyway a niece little piece for my glass cabinet.

But much more important the 'Village du Lion' was the place were I made an extremely nice acquaintance. Facebook chit-chat revealed that Carl, our blogger fellow from 'Hitting on a double 1',  was at the site as well and after we exchanged some text messages during the forenoon we met and shared a very pleasant conversation. It was great to meet one of the internet chaps again and especially in person of this nice and pleasant fellow!
Carl and the humble author at the 'Village du Lion'
Besides that the 'Village du Lion' was a nice meeting place for a lot of other people as well. There was a small tavern, some stands with food and drink, all the museums and even a Belgian group who set up a 15mm wargame about the battle:
15mm wargame about the battle of Waterloo. They use the 'Blücher' rules.
Polish lancers having a break.
Understanding among nations.
On our way to the French camp we passed a lot of memorial sites. These brought us back to earth between all those funny county fair things. Since it was my first visit at the Waterloo battlefield they helped me alignment but we always took some time to look inward there and think of the soldiers who fought and suffered there 200 years ago. Unfortunately we didn't manage to visit all the memorial sites but at least we crossed some of them:
The last position of Mercer's horse artillery.
Memorial for the 5eme Cuirassiers

The 'Hanoverian Monument' near the former sandpit
Memorial for the 6e Artillerie à Pied near the position of the 'Grande Batterie'
Victor Hugo's column
'The wounded Eagle' dedicated to the soldiers of the 'Grande Armée'
But the most impressive memorial site was the farm 'La Haye Sainte'. Those who dealt with the Battle of Waterloo of course know the tactical importance of the grange and the desperate fight which took place there. Major Georg Baring and 400 of his KGL riflemen temporarily supported by other KGL and Nassau troops fought from the very beginning of the battle until 6 o'clock p.m. when they had abandon La Haye Sainte because then ran out of ammunition. After having read Brenadan Simms's 'The longest Afternoon' a couple of weeks ago I experienced this place very intensely. Having seen the thick wall of the estate I can remember how hard and frustrating the repeating charges must have been for the French and how eager the Germans held the ground. Several plates mention the soldiers from both sides who fought in this very place.

Holger, Bernhard and me in front near La Haye Sainte

The estate itself.

The plaque dedicated to Major Baring, his KGL riflement and Colonel Christian von Ompteda

The other plaque for the soldiers of the KGL

Poppies for the British soldiers who fought near the farm.

And a plaque for the French who sacrificed themselves during the attacks on the farm.
Here and there we took a moment to get a look at the countryside. After having seen the battlefield personally I can imagine that forces of soldiers or even squadrans of cavalry disappeared in ground waves or ravines:
A ravine near the 'Wounded Eagle'
But finally we reached the camp of the French army. Unfortunately Napoleon wasn't there because he had his accomodation - historically correct - near the farm 'La Caillou' about a mile away. Since he took his guard and the cavalry with him we had only infantry and artillery here. Nonetheless we were happy and interested to see the Armee du Nord and their bivauc. Somehow this camp seemed less organized then its allied counterpart. Maybe it was the lack of Prussian precesion but the tents were more or less messy and most of the Frenchmen and Frenchwomen were taking a siesta when we arived there. Thus we had a lot of camp life to observe but no drill exercises unfortunately.
The French camp site.

A German group of French soldiers.

Larrey's ambulance. Unfortunately nobody to explain it...

Midday chinwag.

Wolfish, isn't he

At leat one grenadier of the Old Guard on duty.

A couple of Polish preparing themselves.

Camp life.

More camp life.

Grenadiers' headdresses.

French siesta part 1...

... French siesta part 2...

... French siesta part 3...
... French siesta part 4...
... French siesta part 5.
By this time we were rather tired by strolling around the whole day and my two travelling companions were gasping for coffee. Thus we decided not to visit the Corsican's camp and started to search a cafe. Actually I would have loved to have a look at the Imperial guard, the cavalry, the marshalls and the Petit Caporal himself but on the other hand it would have been a way of at least two miles there and back and sooner or later we had to head for the reenactment show. Thus I took the chance to rest my tired limbs and enjoyed a nice - though expensive - thimble of coffee.

After that we made our way back to 'La Haye Sainte' where on the other side of the road stand M was located. There we watched the evening reenactment performance but this will be part 3 of my report.