On the 19 March 1815, having escaped captivity on the island of Elba, Napoleon marched into Paris. He knew that his only chance of defeating the Seventh Coalition that faced him was to attack first. On the morning Sunday 18 June 1815 the French Imperial Army met the Coalition forces under the command of Lord Wellington on the fields south of Mont St Jean. By the end of that day nearly 50,000 men – English, Scottish, French, Prussian, Dutch and Hanoverian, lay dead or dying on Belgian soil. Wellington, on a commanding ridge had created strong-points in farm buildings at Papelotte, La Haye Sainte and Hougomont. French infantry broke in waves against these positions throughout the day while Napoleon’s artillery pounded Wellington’s main position. In the afternoon the French committed a mass cavalry charge of 9,000 horses and men but British infantry squares and doggedly handled artillery repelled the assault. As the day faded into evening Napoleon committed his hitherto undefeated Imperial Guard but even these famous warriors recoiled before musket fire of the Alliance. The moment was lost as Blücher’s Prussians arrived on the field of battle and the French were forced to retreat. And so in the space twelve hours on a small patch Belgian countryside the fate of Europe was decided.
This tour will take you right across the battlefield of Waterloo from the ridge where Wellington positioned his infantry to the village of Placenoit at the rear of Napoleon’s lines. You will walk the walls of Hougomont Farm, defended by English Guards, Hanoverian Jägers and Nassau Infantry, which repelled attack after attack and hear about the heroic efforts to close the gates in the face of Napoleon’s infantry. You will stand on the spot where Captain Mercer stubbornly commanded his troop of Royal Horse Artillery despite being ordered to retire by Wellington and as a result did great damage to the charging French cavalry. You will also be told of the heroism of Sergeant Ewart of the Scot’s Greys who single-handed seized a French Eagle and carried it to the rear. And from the top of the Lion Mound you will be able to survey the entire battlefields and hear how those few acres changed the course of European history.