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!


  1. Some very nice pics again! Too bad that the undulating ground blocked quite a bit of the reenactment. I think they sold too many tickets for the show and adding the extra 5000 tickets was a mistake as there were quite a few stands where visibility wasn't very good thanks to the terrain. Fewer would have allowed them to position those a bit better.

    1. I absolutely agree with you. As far as I know we bought the tickets before they installed the extra tickets but anyway either they should have reduced the prices for tickets with worse look on the battlefield or simply design a plot that supports the whole area...

  2. Great write up Stefan and it looks like you had the simlar view as I did over on the Left Flank of the British Line - SMOKE!! absolutely awesome show though.

  3. Thanks for these three reports, Stefan, quite fascinating. From what I've seen of ACW reenactments in the US, the organization for Waterloo was fare more professional! Makes me wonder if they hired professional entertainment people to organize this.
    Pity you didn't see more but your photos are quite amazing.

    1. Actually I think that there were professionals at least as head of the organisation team. Especially traffic, parking area, gastronomy, crew etc. was that professional that I don't think enthusiasts without experience in such large events could have managed it.

  4. A triumphant ending Stefan, I have thoroughly enjoyed following your journey.

  5. Shame you did not get a better view but what a great day you had.


    1. A wonderful day indeed. As far as I know they're considering something comparable for 2025. My schedule is set. ;-)

  6. Great pictures and great atmosphere :) Looked pretty amazing from what you've shared here!

    1. Many thanks, Mike. It really was amazing but there are a lot of better pics on the web.

  7. Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts of the day.

    1. You're very welcome. It was a pleasure to recall that day once more.

  8. Awesome, almost "authentic" picture series, the battle fog and grouping
    Thanks for sharing

  9. Thanks Stefan for sharing your journey with us, all three posts were excellent.
    Looking at the photos, it really hits home the amount of smoke there was on a battlefield during this period, combined with the dips in the terrain and loss of sight of the enemy, you can understand the 'Fog of War'.

    1. You're welcome. It was indeed very impressive to see a more or less realistic battlefield.

  10. Great pictures! You obviously had better seats than the group I was with. We were promised excellent seats but ended up with very poor ones right in the corner to the left of the French guns. Most of the good stuff was happening behind a hill. For us it was a total rip-off and a very disappointing experience indeed, so much so, that I left early because avoiding the crowds back seemed like a much better idea than looking at a hill! I disagree that the event was well organized. Parking was miles away from the arena, the battlefield was invisible to a great many spectators who had paid good money for supposedly good seating. Many seats people had tickets for didn't exist, meaning that others would arrive to find people already sitting in their seats, causing rows and other problems. I read that policing was useless anywhere but in the VIP area with people rushing forward, selfishly obscuring the view of those who had paid for seated places. Eight toilets for 60,000 people (and more turned up - not toilets, people). The reenactment was probably amazing. I don't know, because I just saw a hill, but the rest of it was an embarrassment to the so-called organizers. There are a lot of very disappointed people out there. The Belgians are probably delighted to have raked in so much easy money though! They're laughing all the way to the bank! Vive l'arnaque!

    1. Really I'm sorry to hear that probably I cannot say anything to mitigate your disappointment.