Waterloo Belgium

wtrlbttlfldFrom one famous battle a tourism industry has grown.

It was Sunday, 18 June 1815 near the pleasant Belgian town of Waterloo that the forces of the Imperial French Army under the direct control of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte went into battle against a coalition of forces that was under the control of the Duke of Wellington, an Irishman who had been involve in 59 battles before this, and a man who had an exemplary record.

Most people know that the coalition forces won the Battle of Waterloo, but that may not have been the case is Napoleon hadn’t delayed his attack, due to wet ground. This delay allowed the Prussian forces to arrive to help the coalition. With French forces in disarray, Napoleon surrendered and Wellington became a hero.

Waterloo is about 13 kilometres (8 miles) southeast of Brussels, and the actual battlefield site is about 5 kilometres outside the town nearer to the village on Mont St Jean. You can’t miss it as the site is dominated by the 43 metre-high (141 ft) Lion Mound.

This conical purpose-built hill was commissioned by King William I of The Netherlands as it is believed to be the spot where his son was wounded during the battle. Fortunately, the son survived and lived to become William II, and later became internationally infamous due to his homosexual exploits. Once you climb the 226 steps to the top, you do get excellent views over the battlefields and beyond.

The name of the battle is referred to as Waterloo as the Duke of Wellington had his headquarters in that town. The building that he used, which is a former inn, now houses the Wellington Museum. A tour of the museums reveals many of the weapons that were used during the battle, including an early rocket that was used by the British. The Congreve Rocket had a good range, but its precision was wildly erratic, making it almost useless as a reliable weapon.

Napoleon’s last headquarters is also preserved. He occupied a farm building that was about 5 kilometres to the south of the Lion Mound at Vieux-Genappe. The museum includes four rooms with weapons, paintings and engravings, as well as the Emperor’s camp bed, his funeral mask, the table on which he spread out his maps and the skeleton of a French Hussar.

Waterloo these days has a population of about 20,000 and it is quite a prosperous commercial centre. The Battlefield is easily reached these days by car, bus and train and is just a 20 minute journey from Brussels.

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