A Near Run Thing
The Waterloo Campaign
The Waterloo campaign in June 1815 ensured the relative peace of Western Europe for the next fifty years. It was the first time that two of the greatest commanders of all time, Napoleon and Wellington, were to be in direct confrontation and it was also to be the last battle for both of them. The circumstances surrounding the battle of Waterloo are well enough known: the Prussian Army under Blucher arriving in time to tip the scales in the Allies’ favour as Wellington’s ‘infamous army’ hung on grimly to the ridge at Mont St Jean.
Our three day Waterloo tour takes a very relaxed approach to the Waterloo campaign, visiting the significant sites and many of the museums. At Quatre Bras we stand at the crossroads grimly held against the advancing forces of Marshal Ney whilst at Ligny we stand on the spot where Wellington met Blucher, explore the hard fought-over villages and see Napoleon’s observation point at the Fleurus windmill. The highlight will be a comprehensive exploration of the field of Waterloo; from the Allied right flank at Hougoumont, along the ridge which saw the Allied squares hold off the dramatic French cavalry attacks, to La Haye Saint and Picton’s crossroads, the scene of d’Erlon’s massed infantry attacks and British cavalry charges. On the French side of the battlefield we visit Napoleon’s quarters the night before the battle, the desperate fighting in and around Plancenoit, the site of the French Grand Battery and walk the route of the final attack of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. An added attraction of this tour will be attendance at the Sunday morning re-enactment on the field of Waterloo itself – a spectacular event that will be played out by more than 1000 uniformed participating infantry, cavalry and artillery and whose fascinating camps we will explore at both Hougoumont and Le Caillou providing tremendous colour and depth to the tour.
"It was the most desperate business I ever was in; I never took so much trouble about any battle; & never was so nearly beat".
Wellington (private letter after battle)
Morning Eurostar departure to Brussels from London St Pancras International. Drive to Ligny for the terrible battle fought between the French and Prussians at the same time as Quatre Bras. We visit Blucher’s observation point at Brye, Napoleon’s mill at Fleurus and the villages of St Amand and Ligny which were virtually destroyed during the battle. Continue to Quatre Bras and visit the crossroads, Gemioncourt farm and the Duke of Brunswick’s memorial. Then it’s back to central Brussels to check into our hotel for two nights.
"Hard pounding this, gentlemen: lets see who will pound the longest".
Wellington, mid afternoon
Start at the excellent Wellington museum and St Joseph’s church in the town of Waterloo. Thence on to the field of Waterloo and the Allied ridge which houses the Visitor’s Centre, the Lion Mound, Panorama and Waxworks all of which we visit during an extended lunch break. We stroll down to the atmospheric chateau of Hougoumont, the battle for which raged all day. Drive to Picton’s crossroads for the massed French infantry attacks and British cavalry charges. From here it is a short walk via the Sandpit to La Haye Sainte to discuss its desperate defence. Next we look at the massed French cavalry attacks and the British squares before travelling to the French side to visit Napoleon’s headquarters at Le Caillou and his observation point at La Belle Alliance. On to Plancenoit and the bloody battle for its possession against the advancing Prussians before returning to La Belle Alliance and the final attack of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.
This morning we drive out to Plancenoit for the traditional Sunday morning battlefield re-enactment. We return to the Allied Ridge for lunch followed by a visit the atmospheric Waterloo Crypt at Evere cemetery. Continue into central Brussels for the late afternoon Eurostar to London St Pancras International, arriving early evening.