WATERLOO, Belgium (Reuters) - British army veterans and serving troops, some of them wounded in recent campaigns, are working alongside archaeologists to unearth the history of the Battle of Waterloo from a soldier’s perspective, 200 years on.
The battle of June 18, 1815, saw British and Prussian forces defeat Napoleon’s French in what is now Belgium, dealing the final blow to the empire he had established, at a cost of almost 50,000 dead or wounded on both sides.
“Waterloo Uncovered”, the first major international archaeological project at the battlefield, was developed by 37-year-old former soldier Mark Evans, himself diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving seven months in Afghanistan in 2008.
Evans found studying archaeology, even the historic battles of the past, to be a welcome reprieve.
“You’re consumed, your mind is just... every day, every night, every waking, sleeping hour, you’re living in Afghanistan. And you just sometimes need something to switch that focus,” he told Reuters Television.
At Hougoumont Farm, which Evans’s former regiment, the Coldstream Guards, helped to defend against the first assault of the battle, soldiers and veterans now dig alongside archaeologists from Britain, Belgium, France and Germany.
“They’ve been there, they’ve seen it,” Evans said. “A different time and a different place, but they understand the confusion; they understand how ground is so important to cover and to make into advances.”
Metal detectors and digging have so far uncovered coins, buttons, and English and French musket balls that the project’s lead archaeologist, Tony Pollard, believes to be from the first shots fired during the battle.
The team will also investigate anomalies shown in geo-physical surveys taken around the farm, which could be the final resting places of soldiers who have lain undiscovered for 200 years.
Reporting By Miranda Alexander-Webber; Editing by Kevin Liffey