What an Incredible experience. Attending the 200th Anniversary celebrations for Waterloo was a absolute privilege, and I am extremely grateful to my friend Justin for arranging this trip on behalf of our Wargames Club.
The trip last Friday to Belgium went very smoothly, travelling in comfort on a nice coach run by Ledger Holidays, a slight detour around Canterbury due to the A2 being closed didn't hinder us too much and soon we were on the P&O ferry from Dover to Calais. A nice smooth crossing but as I don't like boats it still made me queasy and I was very glad to get back onto dry land.
The rest of the trip on the continent was uneventful and we finally pulled into Brussels around 10pm and got settled in the hotel, ready for a very packed filled day on Saturday.
Saturday morning and the weather was looking like it would be glorious after a slight downpour in the night. A quick half hour drive and we arrived at the Allied Bivouacs centered around the historic farm of Hougoumont (more of this site in another post)
Being first thing in the morning the camp was just coming to life and we got to see the daily routine take place, cooking breakfast, raising the standards, parading for duty etc...
After a brief stop looking around the Lions Mound and the Lions Village (a large area dedicated to the souvenir sellers as well as an extra large tent housing a huge array of authentic weapons and uniforms (mostly French) as well as books (practically all in French) and all manner of other accouterments (again mostly French - you would seriously get the impression that Napoleon and the French didn't actually lose Waterloo!!!) we set of towards Le Caillou (Napoleons Headquarters) and the Grande Armee du Nord Bivouacs.
Le Caillou was was where Napoleon spent his last night before the battle. His officers had commandeered the farm house to serve as his headquarters.
The battlefield can not actually be seen from the farm house's front steps. Its obscured just beyond the same deceptively gentle undulations that Wellington took such good advantage of during the battle.
Napoleons Headquarters had a full company of Imperial Guard stationed in the gardens and there were also quite a few French Marshals and Generals situated around a large striped tent discussing the forthcoming battle.
Marshall Ney seemed to think that his massed cavalry charge without infantry support could be a tactical success during the battle!
Onto the main camp of the Grande Armee and on entering their tented lines various units were carrying out drill. It was strange to see French Line units practicing the square maneuver for approaching cavalry. However these troops were extremely well disciplined and carried out their drills and duties immaculately. As mentioned in Stefans blog (see next paragraph) though, the french camp overall seemed a lot more disorganized than the Allied lines.
After visiting both camps, I made my way back to the Lions Village to meet up with Stefan, a fellow blogger I had previously been in contact with via blog and facebook. A most excellent bloke and more of this in the next post.