French troops 68,900
Losses at Waterloo British and Allied killed and wounded
14,400 (21% of combatants) and 4302 horses
Prussian killed and wounded
6,998 (13.5% of combatants) and 742 horses
French killed and wounded
(Accurate figures are impossible as records were lost or destroyed in the aftermath, but were in the region of)
25,000 (36% of combatants, not including prisoners) and 10,000 horses.
This adds up to over 46,000 men and 15,000 horses killed and wounded in such a small space, indeed in some areas the bodies were piled five and six high.
My interest therefore stems from my sheer awe at our predecessors ability to face such barbarity and maintain a level of chivalry unknown in modern times. These men were not just the dregs of prison cells as so often portrayed. The men were enlisted, mostly without coercion, from all strata of the British working classes of the time. Many volunteered to escape from economic hardship; others joined to satisfy a thirst for adventure; many more only thought of the ‘Bounty money’ paid on joining of up to £40, a small fortune at the time; few joined for sheer patriotism. For this was not a ‘National war’ for the British as the Prussians saw it, it was just like all previous wars to them, caused by King’s falling out. Many were illiterate but quite a few had a basic or good level of reading and writing, keeping records of their adventures.
As is traditionally portrayed, the officers largely stemmed from the middle and upper classes, although the proportion of men being raised up from the ranks was a sizeable minority and grew throughout the period. Officers were generally much better educated and were aloof from the men, particularly in barrack life.
Promotion for officers was still largely by purchase, a huge advantage to the rich. However, the regulations laid down by the Duke of York requiring minimum service in each rank does seem to have persuaded many of the crass fops that used to run regiments as a hobby, to find other forms of distraction for their time.
Indeed, the Napoleonic Wars produced more National Heroes in every European country involved than any other period of history. A simple flick through the great names produces, Wellington and Nelson of Britain; Napoleon, Soult, Ney and Murat of France; Blucher, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Germany; Archduke Charles of Austria; Suvarov and Kutuzov of Russia; to name just a few still famous today.
Life on campaign was extremely hard, often long periods were endured with little food and no covering but the stars in all weathers. Here the social barriers eased, the officers and men learnt to help each other, the bond of regiment and company became well established in this long war lasting from 1793 until 1815 with hardly a break. Their hardships sometimes made them callous to death, yet at other times touchingly gentle and supportive. Life in or out of the army was very tough and all were inured to hard struggle, but even here a touch of old world chivalry survived.
Unlike the wars in Spain and Russia, which involved the peasantry and became veritable war to the death, war between the French and British remained a contest between professional armies. This allowed the men to treat the French only as the enemy in full battle, at all other times ‘live and let live’ was the motto. Indeed the pickets of both armies often shared food and conversation, much to the annoyance of Wellington!
This was really the first Global war, extending to North and South America, Africa and Asia, indeed until 1915, this war was known as the ‘Great War’. With the rise of newspapers, letters from the front were regularly printed, again much to Wellington’s annoyance as copies of these papers were regularly read by Napoleon and used as a major intelligence source!
This fuelled a demand for more revelations and even before the war ended, memoirs of soldiers and sailors started to emerge. Following the war there was a veritable explosion of books, running into some hundreds. Some are simple narratives of events, largely copied from campaign histories, turgid to read and producing little new, but a number of gems do exist which tell a ‘human’ story of personal incidents, which give a fantastic insight into this period of history. Their stories fluctuate from riotously humorous stories to the shockingly putrid descriptions of the vile excesses man visits upon man.
These personal histories of men and women just like us, with the same feelings and ambitions, bring those dry pages of history to life for me. No longer is the Battle of Waterloo a simple fact of Napoleon being defeated by Wellington and Blucher. Now the ebb and flow of this momentous day can be seen through the eyes of a handful of the actors in the great scene. Their fears, anguish and elation bring the scene before us and we can form some idea what it was like to stand on that field that day. To feel their pain, their joy and to walk in their footsteps.
The pages you have read are the TRUE stories of those men, all the names in this book were REAL people and the incidents portrayed are ones that they have described. To me, their words resound across the centuries like VOICES OF THUNDER. My involvement has been hopefully to collate all the separate memoirs into one cohesive story that is readable. I have taken the liberty of producing a more descriptive version of the scenes they witnessed, as often to them these scenes were everyday and only warranted a passing word. I have also added much of the dialogue between the characters, which was not usually recorded. That is my contribution, their story is often more fantastical than any novelist dare write for fear of arousing the reader’s incredulity. The facts are largely verifiable and I certainly choose to believe them, fact is often more strange than fiction, as they say!
I have supplemented their stories with information gleaned from numerous publications, articles and visits to museums and libraries, ensuring their stories and my additions are all based wholly on fact. In relation to this, I would offer my grateful thanks to Mr Dyer, Curator at the Royal Mint at Llantrisant and his staff for letting me research the original Waterloo Medal Roll, with all it’s endless supplements; also the very helpful staff at the Public Records Office at Kew for their help and guidance in trawling through the mass of records available.
Waterloo was a battle of infinite importance; it defined the path of European development and history for a century. Indeed, besides a few small wars, Waterloo led to virtually a century without pan European conflict, a thing unprecedented in previous history. Unfortunately after ninety-nine years, this relative peace collapsed in the greater horror of the ‘14-18 War.
Waterloo was the first victory of the British army celebrated with a medal for all combatants. Previously, only Senior Officers had received commemorative medals. Those soldiers that had fought so bravely throughout the world between 1793 and 1814 were not issued with a medal, until very belatedly they were given the opportunity to apply for a General Service Medal, when this was inaugurated in 1847, with bars naming each major victory, back to the commencement of the Peninsula War. Even then, only surviving soldiers could apply, not the families of those that had since departed this life. The Waterloo Medal was issued in 1816 to all surviving participants in the battle serving in the army or the King’s German Legion; again posthumous awards were rare and only then to families of high ranking officers. Some politicians and others also received a medal, including George Canning, Lady Fitzroy Somerset and the Duchess of Richmond of Ball fame. Each medal required one ounce of finest silver at 5 shillings per ounce. The Royal Mint was supplied with sixty thousand ounces of silver to produce an expected forty thousand medals. The silver was worth some £15,000, a sizeable figure in 1815, a fitting tribute to the men and an indication of the Government’s estimation of the importance of the victory.
For those that may have enjoyed my efforts, I continue with a list of the actors in this book and what I have gleaned of their further lives. If you are like me, books that do not tell you what happened to people that you build an affinity with, drive me to fury. I hope this satisfies the curious.
If this book persuades one of you readers to delve a little further into this fascinating period of history, my aim will have been more than accomplished.
Arthur Wellesley, Field Marshal, Duke of Wellington
This was Wellington’s final battle, he now turned his hand to politics, something that his dealings with foreign governments in India, Spain, Portugal and the Low countries, had made him extremely adept at. Prime Minister 1828-1829 and in 1834, when the government fell temporarily, he held the posts of First Lord of the Treasury, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Colonial Secretary all at once. In later life he was a great favourite of the young Queen Victoria. He died at Walmer Castle 1852, buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.
His home at Apsley House is open to the public. Its address is still as it was in Wellington’s time, simply ‘No.1 London’.
His Royal Highness, the Prince of Orange (Wounded)
Succeeded to the throne of Holland in 1843 as William II, he died in 1849.
Lieutenant Colonel Fitzroy Somerset, Military Secretary (Wounded)
He lost his right arm at Waterloo, having been struck by a musket ball fired from the roof of La Haye Sainte after the French had captured the farm. Created Baron Raglan in 1852 and as such became a Field Marshal and Commander in Chief of the British army in the Crimea in 1854. Died of cholera during the siege of Sebastopol. His body was brought home and buried at Badminton. After his death he was unfairly blamed for all the failures of the Crimean campaign.
Major, The Honourable Henry Percy, 14th Light Dragoons (Extra ADC to Wellington)
Sent home with the Waterloo Despatches and made a Lieutenant Colonel immediately. Died in 1825.
Lieutenant General, the Earl of Uxbridge (Wounded)
Wounded in the right knee at the close of the battle, his right leg was amputated and buried under a tree outside the house he was quartered in at Waterloo village. He affixed a board saying, ‘Here lies the Marquise of Anglesey’s leg; pray for the rest of his body, I beg.’ Created Marquise of Anglesey June 23rd 1815, rose to Field Marshal in 1846. Died in 1854, buried in Lichfield Cathedral.
Major General Lord Edward Somerset
When bending down to pick up his hat at Waterloo, had the tail of his coat ripped away and his horse killed by a cannonball. Died in 1842.
Lieutenant General, Sir Thomas Picton (Killed)
Buried at St George’s, Hanover Square but reinterred at St Paul’s in 1854.
Major General Sir James Kempt (Wounded)
Later Governor General of Canada, then Master General of the Ordnance Department. Died in London in 1854.
Major of Brigade, Major Harry Smith (Wounded)
Received a musket ball in the right ankle at Waterloo. Eventually became a Lieutenant General and Governor at the Cape of Good Hope. Victor of the Battle of Aliwal in India. Finally married Juana in 1816 and as Lady Smith, named the town made famous in the Boer War. Harry died at Whittlesea in 1860.
FIRST BATTALION 95TH RIFLES
Effective strength - 27 officers and 549 men
Total losses at Quatre Bras & Waterloo - 17 Officers (63%) and 197 (36%) men killed or wounded.
Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Barnard (Wounded)
Became Governor of Paris whilst the Allied army occupied France. Eventually became Lt Colonel of Chelsea Hospital, died in 1855.
Major Alexander Cameron (Wounded)
Survived his throat injury, but carried the ball in his neck to the grave. With his previous injuries he was effectively unfit for active service again and he went on half pay, living off his pay plus two separate awards of £500 per annum for wounds received in service. He married into an Inverness family in 1829. Eventually became Colonel in Chief of the 74th Regiment, he died in 1850.
Captain Jonathan Leach (Wounded)
Eventually became a Lt Colonel and wrote his memoirs in ‘Rough recollections of an old soldier’ published in 1831. He died at Worthing in 1855.
Captain Henry Lee
Went on half pay in 1820, disappears from half pay list in 1827.
Captain Edward Chawner (Wounded)
Retired soon after Waterloo as Captain of the 4th Veteran Battalion, he died in 1826.
Captain William Johnstone (Wounded)
Wounded at both Quatre Bras and Waterloo but survived. Quit the army in 1831 as a Major, became Colonial Secretary in South Africa, but died at sea in 1836.
Lieutenant John Gardiner (Wounded)
Survived, later a Major in the 82nd Regiment, died at Kinoull 18th June 1852, at the same hour as he received his wound at Waterloo.
Lieutenant John Kincaid, Adjutant
Knighted and made honorary Yeoman of the Guard, author of the very lively ‘Adventures in the Rifle Brigade’, he died at Hastings in 1862.
Lieutenant George Simmons (Wounded)
George Simmons was tended by the Overmar’s for many weeks. Within the first four days, the surgeon drew six quarts of blood; he remained extremely weak, not surprisingly. After three weeks he suffered severe convulsions and vomiting, bleeding was carried out again for seven days, removing (it is recorded) a quart three times a day! (Surely an impossible amount). Two weeks later with little improvement, leeches were applied, up to twenty-five per day. After three days of this his skin was so raw, that he cried continuously from the pain and he attempted to rip the leeches off. Once removed, George insisted that the leeches were destroyed by his servant to avoid them being used again. James Robson, surgeon and friend, advised him that he was unlikely to survive; George thanked him for his honesty but worried for his family in England. Three days later his sheets were covered with putrid matter pouring from the wound. Immediately following the discharge, George felt a little better and started eating again. On October 28th, he landed back in England and miraculously recovered. George eventually became a Major in the Rifles before quitting the army and retiring to Jersey, where he died in 1858. He was the Author of ‘A British Rifleman’.
Captain Orlando Felix (Wounded)
Survived his wounds, was a Major on half pay in 1826, returned to duty in 1841 as Deputy Quartermaster General in the East Indies. Rose to Lieutenant Colonel in 1851 and retired on half pay again in 1855, died in 1862.
Second Lieutenant Allen Stewart (Wounded)
Afterwards a Captain, left the service in 1836, died in Norwich Military Lunatic Asylum in 1847.
Surgeon Joseph Burke
Left the army in 1828, died in Dublin in 1838.
Volunteer Charles Smith
Made a Second Lieutenant in July 1815 as he had hoped, but went on half pay as early as 1817. Colonel of Whittlesea Yeomanry until 1831. He retired in 1837 and died in 1854.
Sergeant Robert Fairfoot (Wounded)
Survived his wounds, subsequently awarded a commission and became Quartermaster to the regiment in 1825, died in Galway in 1838.
Wounded in the left breast at Waterloo, discharged in 1816 as ‘unfit’. Returned to tailoring, working in Dover and probably died there.
Discharged in 1826, with a ‘Very Good’ conduct rating. Returned to Rathkeale, County Limerick.
Left the army in 1817 at age 41, with a ‘Very Good’ conduct rating. Listed as a Chelsea pensioner in 1817 and died in Paisley in 1852.
Discharged in 1823 aged 44, illiterate with an ‘Irregular’ conduct rating, returned to Ireland.
Ned Costello (Wounded)
Pensioned, but returned to fighting in the Carlist Wars in Spain. Became a Warder at the Tower of London. Wrote his memoirs in a very lively book, ‘Adventures of a soldier’. Died at the Salt Tower in 1869.
Tried and found Not Guilty of murder, returned to the battalion. The men petitioned his Company Captain, Jonathan Leach, who added him to the Waterloo Roll Call. Eventually he was awarded a Waterloo Medal. A Chelsea out pensioner in Ireland in 1824, he died at Waterford in 1846.
James Burke (Wounded)
Wounded at Quatre Bras, he lingered on to die of his wounds on 29th June 1815.
Rose to Corporal, a Chelsea pensioner in 1831, died around 1847 at Roscommon.
Discharged in 1817 aged 34 with a ‘Good’ conduct rating, but old and weakly and worn out for the service.
William Mc Nabb
Discharged in 1816, old and worn out for duty.
Still alive in 1847 as he claimed a Peninsula medal.
Still in the battalion in 1818, no further records found.
Became a Chelsea pensioner but died in 1816.
Discharged in 1818, returned to Abingdon.
Discharged in 1816, illiterate, died in Athlone in 1850.
Discharged in 1816, still alive in 1847 as he claimed a Peninsula medal.
Wounded at Quatre Bras, survived.
Deserted in August 1815, perhaps the scenes he had endured had been too much.
2ND BATTALION 95TH
Tom Plunket (Wounded)
He survived, as did his Mary despite her horrendous facial injuries. Discharged with a ‘Bad’ conduct rating in 1817, as he was insubordinate and too keen on his drink. Tom’s previous fame could no longer assuage his misdemeanours. Tom and Mary married but fell on hard times, he sold matches at one time, and he died at Colchester in 1850.
Josh Hetherington (Wounded)
This man obviously existed as he is mentioned often throughout Spain, but wasn’t a Rifleman. It seems likely that he survived, as his injuries do not sound life threatening. However, only two Hetheringtons appear in the Waterloo Medal Roll, neither a Josh. One was in the 69th, which were not in Spain at all; the other was in the 42nd, a Highland regiment. This regiment was in Spain and France, but Josh was a cockney, in a kilt? I don’t think so! The search for Josh continues.
G TROOP ROYAL HORSE ARTILLERY AND ASSOCIATED ARTILLERY OFFICERS
Effective strength - 5 officers, 192 men and 216 horses
Casualties at Waterloo - 2 officers (40%) 26 men (14%) and 69 horses (32%) killed or wounded.
Colonel Sir George Wood, Commanding Officer Royal Artillery in Belgium
Became an Aide de Camp to George IV and died a Major General in 1831.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Augustus Frazer, Commanding Royal Horse Artillery in Belgium
Became a Colonel in royal Artillery and died at Woolwich in 1835.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Dickson, Commanding Battering Train (Commander of G Troop, seconded)
Became a Major General, received a ‘Good Service Pension’ of £365 p.a., he died at Plumstead in 1840.
Lieutenant William Bell, Staff Adjutant to Sir Augustus Frazer
William had a very onerous task at both Quatre Bras and Waterloo, constantly passing orders to the various batteries. A few years later he fell from a horse at Norwich and was run over by a Horse Artillery battery at full gallop. He was very lucky to survive, minus one ear! Afterwards General and Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery. Died in 1873 at Rippon and buried at Tanfield.
Second Captain Alexander Mercer
Got his own battery immediately after Waterloo, he took Beane’s troop as its commander was killed. Became Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery, he died in Exeter in 1868. Mercer remained bitter throughout his life for the failure of Wood and Frazer to gain him the knighthood he felt he deserved. There is actually some question as to whether he ever claimed his Waterloo medal, as he does not appear in the medal lists at the mint at all. He retained his dislike for Newland despite never meeting again. Published his memoirs as ‘Journal of the Waterloo campaign’.
Second Captain Robert Newland
Went on the Half pay list in 1820, retired selling his commission in 1831, he died in 1861.
Lieutenant Henry Leathes (Wounded)
Resigned his commission in 1819, married and was heir to the family estate of Herringfleet Hall in Suffolk. Renowned throughout his life for his benevolence and philanthropy. In later life he started up a correspondence with Mercer over their Waterloo adventures, which his son had privately published in a small book. He died at Lowestoft in 1864.
Lieutenant John Hincks (Wounded)
Became a Captain, married and retired to the half pay list both in 1826, he died in 1842.
Lieutenant John Bretton
Retired on Half pay in 1820, he died at Lyndhurst in 1852.
Assistant Surgeon Richard Hichens
Went on Half pay in 1816, worked as a surgeon at St Ives, Cornwall until his death in 1866.
Staff Sergeant John Hall
Discharged in 1821 as a Sergeant Major with a ‘Good’ conduct rating and a pension. Became the Barrack Master at Woolwich for a number of years.
Staff Sergeant Henry Parson
Discharged in 1824 with a ‘Good’ conduct rating, awarded a pension of 2 Shillings 5 ¼ d per day.
Bombardier Thomas Masterton
Became a Staff Sergeant, retired at the age of 46 with an ‘Exemplary’ conduct rating in 1836 because of severe inflammation of the legs.
Discharged in 1817 on a pension of 1 Shilling per day, recorded as living at Chester in 1828, still living in 1854.
Shoeing Smith John Pettit
Discharged in 1818 on a pension of 9d per day.
Gunner Philip Hunt (Wounded)
Survived amputation of his arm, living at Colchester in 1854.
Gunner John Death
Claimed a Chelsea pension from 1830, still living in 1854.
Gunner James Putten
Claimed a Chelsea pension from 1825, living in Lanark, he died there in 1840.
Gunner Samuel Springley
Claimed a Chelsea pension from 1827, residing in Gloucester, still living in 1854.
Driver Thomas Dibbin (Wounded)
Died of his wounds 29th November 1815.
PERSONNEL SERVING WITH OTHER BATTERIES
Lieutenant William Ingilby
Afterwards a General and Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery, died in 1879.
Captain Robert Bull (Wounded)
Bull was shot in the arm during the battle. Afterwards he rose to Lieutenant Colonel; he retired on Full pay in 1834 and died at Bath in 1835.
Lieutenant Colonel James Webber Smith
Afterwards Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery, he died at Brighton in 1853.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Gardiner
Became an Aide de Camp to George IV, William IV and Victoria. Was Governor of Gibraltar in 1848. Became General and Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery, he died at Claremont in 1864.
Captain Edward Whinyates (Wounded)
At Waterloo he had three horses shot from under him, he was eventually struck on the leg by a round shot and later severely wounded in the left arm. Afterwards became a General and Colonel Commandant of the Royal Horse Artillery. He died at Cheltenham in 1865.
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Hew Ross
Afterwards he was the first artilleryman to obtain the rank of Field Marshal. Became Lieutenant Governor of the Chelsea Hospital, where he died in 1868 aged 90.
Second Captain William Webber, Beane’s Troop (Wounded)
Went on Half pay as a Major in 1826, became a Lieutenant Colonel in 1837, he died at Hexworth House in Cornwall in 1847.
Major Norman Ramsay (Killed)
His body was disinterred after the battle and returned to Edinburgh where he was finally laid to rest. His father raised a monument to him on the field.
Second Captain Alexander Macdonald, Ramsay’s Troop (Wounded)
Severely wounded but survived, afterwards became a Lieutenant General and died at Aix la Chapelle in 1856.
Major John Parker (Wounded)
Lost a leg at Waterloo, became Lieutenant Governor of Woolwich Arsenal from 1818 until his death in 1851.
Lieutenant Phipps Onslow
Went on Half pay in 1824, he died in 1867.
Captain Samuel Bolton (Killed)
Killed at the close of the battle when firing on the advancing Imperial Guard.
Captain William Lloyd (Wounded)
Died at Brussels on the 29th July 1815 from wounds received at Waterloo.
Sergeant Daniel Dunnett, Rocket Troop
Claimed a Chelsea pension from 1826, residing in Oxford, still living in 1854.