The Waterloo Campaign 1815

The Waterloo Campaign 1815

The Waterloo Campaign 1815

The Waterloo tour with Alan Rooney’s Cultural Experience covers the Hundred Days campaign from Napoleon’s invasion of Belgium in June 1815 to his defeat at Waterloo and the retreat to Paris.

The French Sambre crossing points are a particularly beautiful part of the Franco-Belgian border and the tour begins at Napoleon’s pre-invasion concentration area at Beaumont. From here we trace the history of subsequent events through the eyes of the French, Anglo-Allied and Prussian soldiers traced in my recent book 24 Hours at Waterloo. We travel through Thuin, Lobbes and Sombreffe to explore the battlefield at Ligny, where Blucher’s Prussian Army was worsted at St Amand, Ligny and Brye. Carrying on to Quatre Bras, we investigate the inconclusive clash between Marshal Ney and Wellington and follow the Allied retreat through Genappe to Waterloo.

Wavre provides an interesting and little known, yet important interlude during the campaign. Blucher sets off from here on his fateful much delayed forced march to reinforce Wellington’s left wing at Waterloo. Wavre is also the setting for the French Marshal Grouchy’s confrontation with the III Prussian corps rearguard, effectively barring the way to supporting Napoleon at Waterloo.

The battle of Waterloo is the main focus, and we walk the battle within a battle at Hougoumont. The bloody day is followed through individual human vignettes from soldiers from all three armies, exploring the key events of the 18th June 1815. We look at D’Érlon’s huge infantry assault against Wellington’s centre at Mont St Jean and its subsequent rout by the British heavy cavalry brigades. Then the French massed cavalry charges directed against Wellington’s squares and the heroic defence by the King’s German Legion of the farmhouse at La Haye Sainte, whose fall resulted in the near collapse of the Allied centre. We turn to look at the sudden emergence of the Prussians on Napoleons left flank and investigate the bitter fighting in and around Plancenoit village. The climax of the battle is experienced by walking the route of the ill-fated attack by the elite French Imperial Guard up onto the Mont St Jean ridge, Napoleon’s final throw of the dice.

In addition to wandering across some beautiful Belgian rural landscapes, we visit the historical sites associated with the campaign in Brussels, where we shall be staying. On the preserved battlefield there is a fascinating high tech interactive visitor centre, which includes the famous panorama mural. The view from the top of the Lion’s Mound offers an unparalleled 360-degree spectator view of the entire field.

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