As the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo approaches - June 18, 1815 - the decisive role played by Coldstream Guards is being remembered.
In early 1815 Napoleon had escaped from exile on the island of Elba and returned to France prompting Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria to declare war. Napoleon gathered his troops against Wellington’s allied force and the two armies met on what is now Belgian soil near Waterloo at the Chateau of Hougoumont.
French soldiers were on the brink of breaking into the chateau compound and securing victory on June 18, 1815, when Corporal James Graham, of the Coldstream Guards closed the gates while under fire. And the rest - as they say - his history!
“Every guardsman from day one in training is told about Waterloo and Hougoumont and what that means to be a Coldstream Guard,” said former Coldstream Guardsman Mark Evans, who is taking part in an archaeological dig of the battlefield which aims to increase our understanding of what happened at Waterloo.
The defence of Hougoumont is considered one of the greatest achievements of the regiment, the success of the battle turning on the closing of the gates at Hougoumont.
Mark returned from a tour of Afghanistan in 2010, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and as part of his rehabilitation has been involved in Operation Nightingale, an MoD backed initiative to rehabilitate veterans providing life and vocational skills through archaeology.
Taking that a step further Mark and Major Charles Foinette of the Coldstream Guards have joined forces with Dr Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, for the Waterloo Uncovered project.
Dr Pollard said: “History tells us who won the battle but understanding what happened has until now relied on first-hand accounts and reports of the battle. We hope archaeology can provide answers to many of the questions about Waterloo that remain unanswered.
“As an archaeologist this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore such a famous battle, not least because the battlefield remains remarkably undisturbed 200 years later.”