Coldstream remembers Waterloo

The Coldstream RBLS Waterloo dinner auction was led by John Greenwell
The Coldstream RBLS Waterloo dinner auction was led by John Greenwell

Coldstream’s RBLS hall was transported back 200 years at the weekend, as they remembered the Battle of Waterloo at a commemorative dinner.

Lieutenant Colonel J M Vernon (Coldstream Guards Retired), guest speaker at the dinner, gave a graphic description of the lead up to the battle and the actual battle from the viewpoint of those inside Hougoumont farm – predominantly soldiers from 1st Guards (later named Grenadier Guards), Coldstream Guards and 3rd Guards (later Scots Guards) along with some of the Seventh Coalition troops posted in woods nearby.

He told the veterans, veteran Coldstream Guards who had travelled from Windsor to attend the dinner, a veteran Hussar, local historians, Womens Section members and local residents that it was evident that both the weather and the incredible actions of some of the British soldiers during the battle were pivotal in achieving a decisive victory over Napoleon and the French.

The actions of Coldstream Guards Corporal Graham and Lieutenant Colonel Macdonnell could not go unmentioned and the legacy that Corporal Graham left is not only maintained by the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in their ‘Hanging The Brick’ ceremony each year in barracks, but also in the legacy of both long service medals and good conduct medals.

Guests were also told that a special ‘Hanging the Brick’ ceremony will be held by the Coldstream Guards Association this year at Coldstream Civic Week’s fancy dress on the Saturday afternoon.

Lieutenant Colonel Vernon also talked about Napoleons escape from exile on the island of Elba and how the Battle of Waterloo came to be fought. Outnumbered until the arrival of the Prussian Army, the Duke of Wellington was forced to engage his troops in less than ideal circumstances.

Hougoumont was breached during the day, but ultimately was held until the end of the battle.

Lieut. Col Vernon quoted Wellington: “I had occupied that post with a detachment from General Byng’s brigade of Guards, which was in position in its rear; and it was some time under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel MacDonald, and afterwards of Colonel Home; and I am happy to add that it was maintained, throughout the day, with the utmost gallantry by these brave troops, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of large bodies of the enemy to obtain possession of it.”

In his speech he also quoted the words of Major Macready, Light Division, 30th British Regiment, Halkett’s Brigade who said: “When I reached Lloyd’s abandoned guns, I stood near them for about a minute to contemplate the scene: it was grand beyond description.

“Hougoumont and its wood sent up a broad flame through the dark masses of smoke that overhung the field; beneath this cloud the French were indistinctly visible. Here a waving mass of long red feathers could be seen; there, gleams as from a sheet of steel showed that the cuirassiers were moving; 400 cannon were belching forth fire and death on every side; the roaring and shouting were indistinguishably commixed—together they gave me an idea of a labouring volcano.

“Bodies of infantry and cavalry were pouring down on us, and it was time to leave contemplation, so I moved towards our columns, which were standing up in square.”

Lieutenant Colonel Vernon had also taken along a number of commemorative coins that had been struck specifically for the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, including solid gold coins and some based on coins of the time, all by Royal Appointment.

The raffle was well supported – the Provost of Kelso John Bassett had donated items for auction with a Waterloo theme which raised £100 (split between RBLS Regeneration Fund and Kelso High School Battlefield Tours).