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

By Edward Lowton | 12 June 2015

Public invited to participate in new project aiming to preserve memories of the veterans of Waterloo

Photo of a soldier riding a horse in a field with smoke
A French cuirassier during a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo© Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons
The public are being asked to help preserve the history of the British army in a new project by the National Army Museum aiming to transcribe and tag images in a unique online archive.

The newly-digitised records are being uploaded to a new crowd-sourcing platform, Heritage Helpers, as part of the museum's Waterloo Lives: In Their Own Words project to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on June 18.

Photo of a detail of a painting of a British soldier sitting with a crowd of people
A Soldier Recounting his Exploits in a Tavern by John Cawse, 1821© National Army Museum
“The Battle of Waterloo is one of the most important events in European History and it’s waiting to be discovered through this new archive,” says Janice Murray, the museum’s Director General.

“We’re dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the British Army and telling its soldiers’ stories, but we need the public’s help to unearth more details and help us explore this Waterloo treasure trove."

Photo of a letter and red seal
A letter from Captain Edward Kelly to his wife relating his killing of a French colonel in hand-to-hand combat© National Army Museum
The collection includes soldiers’ and officers’ personal journals, correspondence and poetry, as well as regimental order books, casualty lists, gallantry awards, reconnaissance reports and maps.

While most of the documents are in English, some contain French and Dutch.

At least one is written in Scots Gaelic.

The project is part of the museum's larger Waterloo Lives programme, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The decisive battle took place on June 18 1815, when combined British and Prussian forces, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, halted the advance of the French army in Belgium.

Outnumbered, Napoleon knew that his only chance was to attack Wellington's forces before they were able to unite with the Seventh Coalition in a co-ordinated invasion of France.

Photo of a 19th century diary and drawing
The diary of Edmund Wheatley. The sketch shows Wheatley having escaped capture by the French© Private collection. Photo: National Army Museum
Wellington later remarked that the battle was “a damn close-run thing,”.

He added: “I don't think it would have been done if I had not been there.”

Black and white photo of elderly military veterans sitting on a bench
Photograph of Waterloo Veterans, 1880© Royal Collection / Queen Elizabeth II
Waterloo claimed the lives of 65,000 of the 200,000 men who fought that day; it saw the defeat of Napoleon and the end of the First French Empire, leading to almost half a century of peace in Europe up to the Crimean War.

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Fantastic project to provide a lasting legacy of those who fought in this last great battle of the Napoleonic Age
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