New Waterloo Dispatch recreates the message heralding half a century of peace in Europe

By Edward Lowton | 17 June 2015

Reenactors representing Major Percy and Commander James White will travel across the South East by carriage to present the New Waterloo Dispatch to the Princess Royal

Photo of a purple case on a red military uniform
The case that carried the Waterloo Dispatch back to London, thought to have been given to Major Percy by his dancing partner at the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball three days before the battle© Private collector, National Army Museum
A series of events are planned to mark the arrival on British shores of the news of the decisive Battle of Waterloo, heralding almost half a century of peace in Europe.

The New Waterloo Dispatch, taking place on June 20-21, is a ceremonial interpretation of the journey the news travelled to reach London and aims to honour 200,000 men who fought on June 18 1815.

Historical interpreters representing Major Percy and Commander James White RN, will travel in a horse drawn post chaise along the route - newly christened Waterloo Way - from Waterloo in Belgium to London. 

Ceremonies will be held along the way at locations where the horses were changed in 1815.

Major Henry Percy of the 14th Light Dragoons was the only one of the Duke of Wellington's eight aides-de-camp to have survived Waterloo unscathed.

Entrusted with the dispatch and the two French Imperial Eagles captured in the battle, it took Percy almost a day to travel 78 miles to Ostend, Belgium where he boarded HMS Peruvian bound for Deal.

Photo of a painting of a 19th century Royal Navy ship
A watercolour of HMS Pelorus (circa 1830), a brig-sloop of the same class as HMS Peruvian© Public Domain
After traveling for 24 hours, he was becalmed in the middle of the channel, forcing him to travel the last 15 miles by rowing boat accompanied by Commander James White, captain of the Peruvian.

The pair made landfall at Broadstairs around 3pm on Wednesday 21 June, from where they travelled to London in a post chaise posthaste, finally arriving around 10pm at St James’s Square.

Percy, his uniform still stained with blood from the battle, laid the eagles at feet of the Prince Regent with the words, “Victory, Sir! Victory!” However, upon hearing of the “very great” loss of life, the Regent burst into tears.

Following commemorative celebrations in Belgium and Germany, Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland will be delivering the New Waterloo Dispatch together with a a pair of replica French Imperial Eagles to Broadstairs.

Photo of a Victorian era painting
The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras (1875), by Elizabeth Thompson© Public Domain
Events will begin on June 20 with ceremonies taking place in Broadstairs followed by a day of festivities in the town, including a race for pilot gigs over a 20-mile course.   

The dispatch will arrive in Canterbury for the afternoon where it will be presented to HRH The Duke of Kent who will be attending a Waterloo Commemoration Service at the Cathedral.  

On June 21, the post chaise will depart from the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and after journeying through London it will arrive at St James’s Square for two ceremonies; one in the square and one at the East India Club where the replica Eagles will be placed at the feet of the Princess Royal, standing in for her ancestor George IV.

Following this the post chaise will join The Waterloo Parade from Horse Guards Parade down The Mall. The parade will include seven European bands, British military bands led by HM Band of the Royal Marines, an International Pipe Band and 150 cadets from the three services.

Photo of a military marching band
The Waterloo Band & Bugles of the Rifles will be marching in Sunday's Waterloo Parade © The New Waterloo Dispatch 2015
Parallel to these events, The Ride of the Lions Waterloo 200, in partnership with the re-enactment, will make a contemporary recreation of Percy and White’s journey in support of the veterans’ charity Walking with the Wounded.

Supported by the British and Irish Lions rugby union side, on June 18, 200 cyclists will depart from the Wellington Museum at Waterloo which stands at the site where the original Dispatch was written.

On the Saturday June 20, the riders will cycle the remaining 80 miles from Dover to St James’s Square, passing along Westminster Bridge, Birdcage Walk and the Mall and before finishing at Hammersmith & Fulham RFC.

Prior to penning the historic dispatch of June 19 1815, Wellington courted scandal by writing a note informing Lady Frances Wedderburn Webster, married and pregnant with her second child, of the battle’s outcome  – “I yesterday, after a most severe and bloody contest, gained a complete victory”

  • For more on the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo visit waterloo200.org

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More Culture24 coverage of Waterloo 200:

Ten of the best Waterloo exhibitions to see for Waterloo200

National Army Museum enlists public to help catalogue new Battle of Waterloo "treasure trove"

Napoleon's spyglass restored for the 200th anniversary of Waterloo

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Sorry to correct you the photo you have of the Waterloo band and bugles not not the correct one... The picture you have is that of the regular army band and bugles of the Rifles based at winchester

The Waterloo band and bugles are based in Oxford and part of 7 Rifles
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