Guards played pivotal role at farm gates

Hougoumont Farm is now owned by the Landmark Trust.
Hougoumont Farm is now owned by the Landmark Trust.

It has been a big week for the Coldstream Guards as their decisive role in the Battle of Waterloo 200 years ago has been remembered.

The Coldstream Guards were involved in defending the allied troops’ position at Hougoumont Farm at Waterloo, Belgium, on June 18, 1815, and were credited with closing the gates to the farm and keeping Napoleon’s troops out. Wellington described Guardsman Corporal James Graham as the “bravest” man in the army and said the outcome of Waterloo “turned on the closing of the gates at Hougoumont”.

At a commemoration service last week, attended by the Prince of Wales, 10 Guardsmen from No 7 Company Coldstream Guards, dressed in 1815 period costume, and carried out the official opening of the gates at the farm – symbolising the friendship and peace all sides now enjoy today, and the official opening of the monument to visitors of the future.

After considerable effort and investment the previously derelict farm has been restored and the anniversary service also marked its official opening to the public as an exhibition area, education centre, memorial, and landmark residence.

During the ceremony, the Band of the Coldstream Guards played a new piece of music composed for the occasion ‘Hougoumont Farm’.

Corporal Oliver Morton of Number 7 Company Scots Guards was among those in period costume who opened the gates, and he said: “It was a real privilege and an inspiration to be part of such an important historical occasion.

“It’s been fascinating learning about how soldiers of the time lived and worked – SA80 rifles are a whole lot easier to handle than a musket and this uniform is really restricitive –there’s almost no movement, not like my modern operational kit.

“But it’s such an honour to be here on the ground where my forebears in the Coldstream Guards, the Scots Guards and the Grenadiers fought so proudly.

“When we came down here to the farm it was so quiet and beautiful. Trying to imagine the scene 200 years ago – wow, it must have been carnage and chaos.

“I’d rather stick with my tunic and bearskin on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace anyday!”

Prince Charles unveiled a statue depicting two life-size soldiers struggling to close the gate at the farm and save it from being over-run by the French at the same ceremony.”

“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 has been taking part in an archaeological dig of the battlefield which aims to increase understanding of what happened at Waterloo.