Waterloo200 website launches with 100 objects and search for Waterloo ancestors

By Richard Moss | 28 January 2015

The Waterloo bicentenary has a new website packed full of resources, objects, stories and listings

a photo of a pair of high leather boots
The Duke of Wellington’s Boots, practical for both battles and ballrooms.© English Heritage. Photo Relic Imaging Ltd.
A new website has been launched to commemorate the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo, with an eye-catching gallery of artefacts preserved from the battle together with a comprehensive list of events taking place nationwide.

Waterloo200.org.uk is a joint venture from the bicentenary organising committee Waterloo200, the National Army Museum and cultural publishers Culture24, and has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to offer a “central hub” bringing together listings, historical and educational resources in an engaging and accessible format.

The new site has launched with an online exhibition of 100 historical artefacts, ranging from the Duke of Wellington’s boots to the saw used to amputate the Earl of Uxbridge’s leg – a virtual display that is by turns informative and macabre.

Unique treasures in the selection (drawn from the National Army Museum’s Waterloo Collection as well as public and private collections across Europe) include a set of dentures made with teeth recovered from dead soldiers on the battlefield – teeth being a valuable commodity during the early 19th century – and a French Cuirassier’s metal breast plate, devastatingly holed by the cannon ball that killed him.

Another projectile mark can be found on a large English penny, which stopped a French bullet and saved the life of the British soldier carrying it.

Less fortunate was Captain George Holmes, who was killed by a bullet to the spine. Wanting a souvenir of her late husband, his widow had his body boiled and the damaged vertebra removed, varnished and set with silver. The bullet that killed Captain Holmes was also kept.

Waterloo, it seems, was lodged in the nation’s conscience almost immediately, and there was an attendant fascination for mementos from the battle. Modern day Waterloo enthusiasts who visit the new website can also acquire their own keepsake by ordering a free copy (£2.50 postage) of the Waterloo medal, courtesy of the Royal Mint.

Click below to launch a gallery of the objects featured on Waterloo200

The battle, which took place on June 18 1815, saw the British and Prussian forces, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, halt the advance of Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army in Belgium. Of the 200,000 men that took part, 65,000 died on the fields of Waterloo.

As well as securing defeat for Napoleon, ending his reign as Emperor of France and bringing peace to Europe after 30 years of war, the battle marked an important stage in the development of the British Army, as Waterloo200 Project Officer Alwyn Collinson explains. 

"The Battle of Waterloo is significant because it was the first time the bravery of both the famous general and the unknown private was recognised by giving every man who took part a medal, something which had never happened before 1815,” says Collinson.

The tradition of the campaign medal has continued for every theatre of war the British Army has entered since, although as well as the Waterloo medal, Waterloo veterans were also given two years’ pay.

“This project represents the perfect opportunity to show to the public some of the most interesting and culturally important items from this momentous battle,” added Collinson of the objects, which include an example of the Waterloo medal.

A further 100 items are due to be published before the anniversary of the Battle on June 18.

But as well as being a place to delve into a fascinating collection of objects, each of them telling their own absorbing story, the website serves as a hub for anyone wanting to find out more about Waterloo200 via one of the many events, exhibitions and re-enactments happening throughout Europe during the anniversary year.

The latter are being provided by Culture24 who are providing all the listings information as well helping with the new website’s development.

Waterloo200 will also be working with 200 schools across the country to encourage pupils to learn more about the battle and its impact. Students will be tasked with researching and reporting on one of the 200 items, as well as learning about soldiers from their local area who fought.

To supplement this educational drive, Waterloo200.org will feature an array of educational tools to help teachers up and down the country inspire pupils to engage with the history of the battle.

The organisation has also partnered with findmypast.co.uk in a campaign to seek out the estimated hundreds of thousands of modern-day descendants of Waterloo soldiers, most of whom are thought to have no knowledge of this heritage.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More on Waterloo200:

Napoleon's letter of surrender from Waterloo to go on public view at Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle reveals details of Waterloo at Windsor: 1815-2015 for Waterloo200

National Portrait Gallery targets "fuller picture" of Duke of Wellington on Waterloo anniversary

Largest Napoleonic re-enactment ever staged planned for bicentenary of Battle of Waterloo

Waterloo 200: Six key artefacts from the Battle of Waterloo

Latest comment: >Make a comment
a splendid idea why shoudnt we be proud of all our

history both milatry

a splendid idea why shoudnt we be proud of all
our history both milatry and every else we
gave to the world

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