Throwback: Waterloo

Throwback to when I went to Waterloo June 2015... 

This time last week, I was in Waterloo. No, not the station in London, but the battle ground in Belgium. It was the bicentennial, and in commemoration, there was a large battle reenactment which involved 5000 reenactors, 300 horses and 100 canon.

Scotland Forever- the 1881 oil painting by Elizabeth Thompson (Lady Butler) which portrays the march of  the Royal Scots Greys at the battle

The battle took place on the 18th June 1815, and was where the emperor Napoleon of France was finally defeated by the allied troops of Britain and Prussia under Wellington and von Blucher respectively.

Although I've never really thought of myself as a battle-reenactment kinda gal, this is the kind of thing that only comes round once every 200 years, and I couldn't miss it. The incredible effort that the reenactors put in was really something to behold. Many of them made their own costumes, and they all lived in the realistic bivouac for the entire weekend: eating, sleeping, and washing like the soldiers and their families would have done two centuries ago.

Sneaky shot of life in the bivouacs 

Of course, the reenactment in itself was astounding: the sheer size, scale and sound was impressive, and actually quite shocking- I had never really understood how huge the battle ground was, and how insignificant one little soldier must have felt. Under the cover of the grey smoke -produced by the canon- the battle really came to life.

Trying to take a photo through the hazy smoke- the raincoats in the audience are a tad anachronistic... 

However, the real surprise was how much I loved the museum! Yes, I'll admit it, museums of battles have always kind of been my nemesis, as I've always seen them as sucking any interesting part of the battle out and leaving the shell stapled to the wall. But this museum was really something quite different. Accompanied by an engaging English audio guide, I made my way through to the walls of paintings, only to discover that they were not in fact just paintings. Rather than having a static painting with a simple plaque underneath, there were high definition screens which zoomed in on the most important parts of each painting. Most spectacularly, parts of the painting were subtly animated to really bring it to life. For instance, one of the paintings of Trafalgar had the ships gently rocking up and down on the sea, and splashes of water showing where the canon balls fell. What a way to present art from all over the world!

One of the best parts of the museum- a long corridor lined with wax figures wearing the gear from the time

We also visited the Lion's Mound memorial (of 1820) and the Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo (designed in 1911) which houses the 360ft -in circumference- painting by Louis Dumoulin. Both of which were really great experiences. (Although I did rush out of the panorama after noticing a sign that read 'only 50 people allowed at one time' and seeing how there were at least 200 people crowding onto the wooden platform! Clearly health and safety aren't such a big deal here.) We even managed to get a photo of the brand new Battle of Waterloo monument which was unveiled by Prince Charles only a week ago!

Selfie with a poor soul immortalised on the Panorama 

All in all, a really important, interesting and engaging visit.

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