Thursday, 18 June 2015

Happy Waterloo Day!

The Scots Greys were almost completely wiped out.

On a Sunday 18th June 1815 the battle of Waterloo took place in what is present day Belgium. I can remember it like yesterday but it wasn't yesterday as I always have chicken and chips on a Sunday and I certainly did not have chicken and chips yesterday. 

Napoleon and his French mostly veterans, faced of against the Duke of Wellington with his British, Irish, Prussian, Dutch .... loads of foreigners and many not very experienced. Both commanders were aged 46 .
It was a close run battle in which Wellington won the day by leading a daring bayonet charge and Napoleon ran away to Paris in typical French style.... though he was born on Corsica. Bred to be the perfect fleeing machine.  

Private Peter McMullen from Downpatrick of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot (the only Irish regiment in the battle) was wounded when a canon shot took off both his arms.

His heavily pregnant wife Elizabeth ran onto the battle field and dragged her husband to safety (probably giving him shit all the way) even though a musket shot fractured her leg. She gave birth to a daughter while still in hospital.

The (grand old) Duke of York, Frederick Augustus Hanover heard about this and visited them and agreed to become the child's godfather, the girl was named Frederica McMullen of Waterloo, she died months afterwards but still.
The 27th regiment were praised by Wellington for having saved his entire centre line in the battle.
 Lion's mound at Waterloo.

The dead lay on the battlefield for soldiers and scavengers to rummage through. Teeth were big business then as the rich were eating more sugar and rotting their teeth they needed new ones, these dentures were to be known as Waterloo teeth.

The British government didn't have the money to build monuments to the war dead so it dedicated a London bridge to them in 1817 and had a massive celebration parade. The Waterloo bridge became famous for suicides and prostitution and because of water damaged it was demolished and rebuilt getting finished in 1945 by a mostly female work force which got it the nickname The ladies bridge. 

In 1820 King William I of the Netherlands built a huge mound on the Waterloo battleground, Wellington said "They have altered my field of battle!". They were still finding bodies on the ground even then as not all made it to the mass graves. In the 1830's and 40's fertiliser companies raided the battlefield for bones to grind up and sell to the farmers as fertiliser. A Yorkshire newspaper ran a campaign to have this practice stopped in the 1860's.

The only complete skeleton found in 200 years was found under a car  park. Friederich Brandt a 23 year-old Hanoverian of the King’s German Legion of George III. He still had a musket ball lodged in his ribs. He was 5 foot 2 inches and had a slight curvature of the spine. He had 20 coins, French and German which were equivalent to a month's wage and had an iron spoon.

Both sides lost around 20,000 men each, many of those killed and forgotten about and used as fertilizer or for spare parts for the rich, some things never change for the common soldier.


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