Waterloo Tours

Details of Napoleonic Guide Tours of Waterloo soon

Words and Photos by John Kay

Email Alan Lindsey for Tour Details
Hotels in Brussels (20km from Waterloo, 30-minute drive)
Accommodation in Charleroi
(35km from Waterloo, 28-minute drive)
Hotels in Namur
(46km from Waterloo, 42-minute drive)
Wavre Hotels
(29km from Waterloo, 21-minute drive)
Battle description

Lion Mound at WaterlooThe rolling farmland of Belgium, a short train journey from Brussels, is dominated by an immense memorial to those who fought and died on June 18, 1815, at Waterloo - the battle that determined the future of Europe for 100 years.

Fascinated by this history-changing clash of arms it was an easy choice to visit the compact battlefield while travelling in Europe.

To get a better understanding of Waterloo we decided to get a local expert - albeit a British one - to lead us around the area.

Alan Lindsey, our tour guide who lives in a nearby village, met our party at the railway station and drove us to the site of one of the important clashes of the 100 Days' Campaign at the crossroads at Quatra Bras.

Battlefield at WaterlooIt was here on June 16 that a small Dutch and Belgian force, quickly reinforced by British troops, delayed the French army's left wing under Marshal Ney and denied him the vital crossroads and a link to Napoleon Bonaparte's main army.

By doing so, the Allies prevented the whole French army combining and allowed the Duke of Wellington time to retreat and concentrate his forces and meet the French onslaught near a small village called Waterloo.

Even though almost two hundred years have elapsed since this momentous event and cars and trucks have replaced horses and carts the area is eerily quiet.

MemorialAlan described vividly the French forces massed in the middle distance and the British infantry sheltering behind the reverse slopes as cannon balls bounce over them; as Wellington remarked, 'a hard pounding, gentlemen'.

We could feel and visualize the thousands of Marshal Ney's cavalrymen charging up the slope and over the ridge expecting to slaughter their fleeing enemy only to find unbroken squares of British redcoats. From the silent ranks poured shot and shell into the surprised French.

The ploughed fields of today were head height maize that day and in there several battalions of British troops were concealed waiting for Napoleon's last desperate gamble to launch his formidable Old Guard into the fray.

He obliged and they were shot to a standstill, then into retreat and finally butchered as they died to allow their Emperor to make his escape.

French Ossuary at Le CaillouThere are impressive memorials to the about 37,000 killed British, Prussian, Dutch and Belgian soldiers.

Not many to the similar number of French casualties, although one is remarkable, a small ossuary houses their unidentified bones.

It is in the grounds of the old Caillou farmhouse, now a museum, containing a comprehensive collection of Napoleonic memorabilia.

We ate delicious windfall apples in the orchard where the 'Old Guard' rested on the eve of battle, for many of them this was their last night of life.

Le CaillouIn the dining room on the ground floor Napoleon briefed his generals: 'We will brush aside this English aristocrat before lunch-time tomorrow and take dinner in Brussels by night.'

The fortified farmhouse of Hougoumont, many of its shattered walls rebuilt, still shows the scars of the fierce firefight that raged around it.

Even the trees have never recovered from that day. One can imagine the cries of the wounded and smell the blood, sweat and stench of gunpowder in the quiet chapel that was used as a makeshift hospital.

Guards MonumentIn 1944 the Guards paused at Hougoumont to pay tribute to their own battalions who had died to save Belgium and Europe from a tyrant.

139 years later their descendents were on their way to liberate Brussels from the grip of yet another dictator.

Near the battleground a modern visitors centre contains a large diorama of the conflict accompanied by music and chilling sound effects; a theatre shows two excellent short films, and a museum with waxworks of the generals of both sides.

In the various museums around Waterloo there is a plethora of tributes to satisfy Napoleonophiles, but very little evidence of other major players in that days drama, especially the Prussian Commander, Marshall Gebhard von Blucher and the Commander in Chief of the Allies the Duke of Wellington.

HougoumontThey say that history is written by the victors… but in this case, perhaps not.

Alan Lindsey's skills are not confined to a detailed knowledge of the strategy and tactics involved with the Battle of Waterloo - he is also a very good host.

We spent a very enjoyable hour over an excellent lunch accompanied by a fine carafe of Rose from Anjou.

Late in the afternoon Alan dropped us off at the railway station completing the most informative and entertaining day of our European holiday.

Battle description


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