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.


  1. Great photos again! Seems that the French do what soldiers usually do best, minimize all effort at doing anything other than lying down immediately when it's not required :)

    1. The French were perfect on this indeed.

    2. Hey!

      Just want to comment something.

      I was at Waterloo 200 too, as a Fusilier de ligne reenactor.
      Well, I have to admit, our camp, the french one, wasn't really that nice too see, it was just full of plain tent without really anything to see. Really, neither I like it. Instead I liked more the Allied one, it looked like a living camp!

  2. Fantastic photos again, Sir! Thank you!

  3. Great report, would have loved to be there


    1. Indeed I'm glad to have persuaded my fellows. It was an exhausting but very interesting and simply awesome trip.

  4. Thank you for these, Stefan. I quite like the two generals, including the one with the lady and the champagne. These fellows knew how to campaign in comfort!

    1. The staff officers' tents and awnings were very comfortable in general. At least in the French camp. The Allied officers seemd to be more unassuming. And more victorious later on the day... ;-)

  5. It looks like you had a fabulous time Stefan and great that you were able to meet up with a fellow Blogger - it really is a small world. Great photographs and an invaluable resource, thank you for sharing.

    1. You're welcome, Michael. It was indeed a unique day in Belgium.

  6. Impressive pictures, thanks for sharing!