Planning in hand for Battle of Waterloo's bicentenary

Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:45am EDT
 
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By Barbara Lewis

WATERLOO, Belgium (Reuters) - The first tourists to the site of one of the most decisive battles in European history arrived the very next day to inspect a scene of carnage where tens of thousands lay dead or wounded.

They came by carriage from Brussels on a roughly 8-mile journey. Nearly 200 years after the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, a trip to the site in present-day Belgium by train, bus and then on foot through a tangle of roadworks won't end in a blood-stained vista, but can still pose a challenge.

But to mark Waterloo's bicentenary in 2015, organizers of the battle's biggest re-enactment yet, with a record 4,000 uniformed volunteers, are working on a complete overhaul of the faded facilities for tourists.

Excitement is building among historians, battlefield enthusiasts and descendants of those whose struggle entered the English language as a byword for an irreversible defeat and has given its name to more than 120 places the world over.

Waterloo's significance all depends on your vantage point.

"For the British it was the end of tyranny. It was the military end for Emperor Napoleon. For the French, it was the end of a momentous revolutionary period, which brought a lot of positive things, not just two decades of war. For the Belgians, it marked the end of French annexation and made national independence possible 15 years later," said Bernard Snoy, a Belgian baron.

One of his ancestors fought in Napoleon's armies. He was released from his allegiance after Napoleon abdicated in 1814 and at Waterloo, he fought under the Dutch Prince of Orange against Napoleon with the victorious British forces commanded by the Duke of Wellington.

The baron is chairman of the Waterloo Committee, one of a network of charitable organizations that date back to the 1970s and the successful efforts of the current Duke of Wellington to stop a motorway being cut through the battlefield.   Continued...

 
History enthusiasts, dressed as members of the French army, take part in a re-enactment of Napoleon's famous battle of Waterloo in Braine-l'Alleud August 17, 2013. The first tourists to the site of one of the most decisive battles in European history arrived the very next day to inspect a scene of carnage where tens of thousands lay dead or wounded. They came by carriage from Brussels on a roughly 8-mile (13 km) journey. Nearly 200 years after the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, a trip to the site in present-day Belgium by train, bus and then on foot through a tangle of roadworks won't end in a blood-stained vista, but can still pose a challenge. REUTERS/Laurent Dubrule